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Why Rituals Work

With a multi-million dollar weight loss and fitness industry, plus thousands of apps you’d think it’d be easy for us to stick with a diet and exercise program.  It all starts with the best of intention, but then momentum starts slowing down and motivation dwindles until you’re left with another weight loss ‘’ notch on your belt.

Here’s the crux. Relying on motivation and willpower alone won’t work.

We are usually motivated by the pleasure of what we want, or by the pain of what we don’t want. Over time, however, motivation subsides and you are then relying on willpower. If you have little motivation, a Tim-Tam in front of you with your work colleague enjoying one next to you, willpower can be tough.

You see, willpower on its own is a bit like petrol in your car. The more you use up, the less you have. If you keep saying no to something when all you want to do it say yes, your willpower becomes depleted. This is why we often give in at night. All our willpower is used during the day, so at night we are more likely to reach for the Tim Tam we didn’t have earlier. It’s even harder when we are tired and stressed out.

Setting smaller, shorter terms goals is a great way to keep our momentum going. This is because our brains are wired to seek pleasure from short-term success, rather than a goal that seems an eternity away. Doing small, healthy rituals each day and ticking them off releases feel-good hormones in the brain, so we end up wanting to do more. Over time, these small rituals add to big changes. This applies to any area of our lives – the food we eat, our exercise and movement, sleep and how we think.

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Why Sleep is so Important

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support a healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur right away, or it can harm you gradually over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, the chart below, from sleepfoundation.org shows general recommendations for different age groups. The recommendations are the result of multiple rounds of consensus voting after a comprehensive review of published scientific studies on sleep and health.

AgeRecommended Amount of Sleep
Infants & Newborns16–18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children11–14 hours a day
School-aged children9 – 11 hours a day
Teens8–10 hours a day
Adults (including the elderly)7–8 hours a day

To improve your sleep habits, it may help to:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. For children, have a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. Don’t use the child’s bedroom for timeouts or punishment.
  • Try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Limit the difference to no more than about an hour. Staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends can disrupt your body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm.
  • Use the hour before bed for quiet time. Avoid strenuous exercise and bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. The light may signal the brain that it’s time to be awake.
  • Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a couple hours of bedtime. (Having a light snack is okay.) Also, avoid alcohol before bed.
  • Avoid nicotine and caffeine (including caffeinated drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate). Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, and both substances can interfere with sleep. The effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 hours. So, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
  • Spend time outside every day (when possible) and be physically active.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark (a dim night light is fine if needed).
  • Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bed such as meditation.

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Not a runner? Six reasons to enter a fun run anyway

Spring is when we see a flurry of fun runs and walks of short and long distances take place around the country and if you’ve ever watched a Fun Run you’ll have noticed the buzz, the pride and yes – sense of well-earned celebration as people cross the finish line. (See below for a list of events you can still sign up for over Spring).

If you’re not an avid runner, you may wonder how the words FUN and RUN could possible go together but for most people you talk to after their first run – they just want to do it again and again. It’s not just about the running. Here are a few reasons why you should consider signing up:

1. You don’t have to run!

Many fun runs have a variety of distance options, some going down to just a couple of kilometres where you have the option to jog or walk if you can’t keep going. Worried you might look silly if you can’t finish? If you can’t continue – stop. Nobody will think any less of you and in fact, you’ll find that many people you meet on the day will be new to running events and are there, just like you, to see how far they can push themselves.

2. It’s social

Research tells us if we exercise with others (we call them ‘accountability partners’) we are more likely to achieve our goals. You’ll also be spending quality time together, you will inspire each other and be more motivated to see it through.

3. It’s fun!

They don’t call it a fun run for no reason.  The atmosphere and energy at fun runs can be amazing. Many organisers have music playing, entertainment and someone with motivating words blaring over a loudspeaker.  People even run in fancy dress and others push prams. It’s a wonderful experience, whether you’re a long-time runner or not.

4. It’s motivating

Most of us need goals to keep us motivated and fun runs are a great goal to have. Most fun runs give the option of getting sponsored to raise money for charity, so not only are you motivated to get fit and healthy, you are also motivated to support a worthy cause. Motivation has been shown to increase when you have a purpose or a ‘why’ behind it. Read our article Find Your Why to find out more about this.

5. You’ll get fit

Whether you’ve signed up for the 5k, 10k, ½ marathon or even a marathon, you’ll want to train and the more train, the fitter you’ll get. The fitter you are, the better you will feel.  

6. You will feel great afterwards

Crossing that finishing line with hundreds of other people simply feels great. Not only have you achieved your goal, but you have helped raise money for charity and are a part of a huge group of people all there for the same reason.


Upcoming fun runs across Australia

ACT

Run for your Lifeline, 4 Nov, Canberra

Grapest 5km Run, 2 Dec, Lake George

VIC

Homesglen Run for Change, 24 Oct, Chelsea

City2Sea, Sun 12 Nov, Melbourne

Carmans Womens’ Fun Run, Dec 3, St Kilda

NSW

Climb ‘n Dine stair climb, Sydney

MULTI-STATE

Run in the Dark, 15 Nov; Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney

SA

Glenelg Classic, 12 Nov, Glenelg

Grapest 5km Run, 18 Nov, Langhorne Creek

TAS

Walk for Prems, Sun 29 Oct, Hobart

Beach to  Bay, Strahan, Sat 4 November

WA

Color Run, 5 Nov, Perth

Triathlon Pink & Fun Run, 12 Nov, Perth

Images: © Anita Welsh Photography for Hobart Fun Run