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Staff blog

BLOG: Building new habits and making things happen in 2021

"There is always something we can do to improve our well-being and happiness. Health and wellness goals are a great place to start."

female kneeling with running shoes

A blog by Joyce Johnston, Head of Reward and Wellbeing, People and Culture Directorate

Are you are finding it difficult sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, but it is something you really want to work on in the upcoming year? There is always something we can do to improve our well-being and happiness. Health and wellness goals are a great place to start.

Everyone has different ideas on what their health and wellbeing goals should be, but the important thing is to come up with techniques to help you maintain and achieve those goals. Here are some tips from the Staff Wellbeing Team to help you stick to your new health and wellness resolutions in the new year.

To help you get an idea on how to Build New Habits, please see this short video from Dr Laura McGowan, Psychologist and Lecturer in the Centre for Public Health.

Think about setting health and wellbeing goals

We all face so much external pressure to live up to society’s standards, whether that’s looking a certain way, keeping up with social trends, or a perfect-looking life online. This means it is really important to set realistic goals that are entirely your own.

Some realistic health and wellness goals might be:

  • getting more exercise
  • making room for meditation and mindfulness
  • enriching your diet with healthier foods
  • taking social media breaks
  • spending more time outdoors
  • and getting more sleep

Remember, these are just a few ideas to get you started! New Year’s health and wellbeing goals will look different for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to start small. Make sure every goal you set will make a difference to your life. Starting small and taking time to build your new health and wellness achievements will allow you to develop confidence over time. Once you begin succeeding at smaller challenges, you will feel prepared and ready to progress to the next bigger goal.

Create a Health and Wellbeing Plan or keep a diary

New Year’s goals are something we must fully integrate into our lives for them to be realised. Resolutions usually seem achievable, but, come February, those goals seem to magically disappear with the busy lives that we lead - not to mention the external environment we are living in.

It’s therefore helpful to come up with a plan or routine that keeps your goals at the forefront of your mind: keeping a diary is a good way of reminding yourself to set aside designated time for working out, meditation, or you could set screen time limits on your phone to help you get out of bed early and into bed earlier for a good night’s sleep. You might want to create a weekly planner, but whatever you choose, try to stick with your plan to help you achieve your results.

Find a health and wellbeing partner

A health and wellbeing partner is someone who will help keep you committed to your goals while you simultaneously help keep them committed to their own, supporting and coaching each other through respective goals.

This may be more difficult at the moment with the lockdown restrictions, but support could be shared through phone or video calls until such time as restrictions permit meet up to exercise.

Think about the things that prevent you from achieving your goals

If you do keep a health and wellbeing diary, you could record the things that stop you from achieving your goals and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. For example, if find that when you finish work you no longer feel like exercising, you may wish to start exercising first thing in the morning before work. Great ways to cut the calories include thinking about what you are eating and keeping a food to record your daily calorie intake.

Checking your progress

It’s easy in today’s world of technology to track your progress and see the gradual change in your health and wellbeing.

For fitness specific goals, consider investing in something that will track your workouts - like a Fitbit or some other sort of step tracker. There are many apps available that you can download on your phone. Some of these apps help with stress, workouts, meditations, meal prepping etc.

Don’t forget that when you achieve goals, it’s ok to reward yourself. If you do slip from the plan, that’s fine too, but it’s important to start again and readjust accordingly.

To continue to help you on your wellbeing journey, Staff Wellbeing will be continuing to provide sessions and activities with a focus on the “Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing.” More sessions will continue to be added to the Wellbeing Calendar - promoted through Staff Roundup and Wellbeing Champions. Some upcoming sessions are set out below.

Keep Learning

How to Improve Your Sleep with Professor Gerry Gormley 
Friday 15 January & Friday 19 March

Professor Gerry Gormley will be providing staff with is hugley popular Lunch and Learn session on How to Improve Your Sleep in January and March 2020. These sessions will assist staff in managing their sleep and will provide tips and hints on how to improve it.

Digital Parenting: Keeping Your Child Safe Online
Thursday 28 January at 1.00pm

Children are now spending more time online learning remotely. In this session Parenting NI will provide parents with the tools on how to keep their children safe, explore what children are doing online, how to safely search for resources, explore the risks and dangers children face, and provide information on how parents can respond.

Helping Children Manage Change with Parenting NI
Thursday 4 February 2021 at 1.00pm

With the new restrictions in place, children and parents are going through confusing and difficult times. With schools remaining closed until mid-term in February and the drastic changes in routine that children have gone through since last March, Parenting NI will provide staff with information and tips on how to help their children manage these changes.

Teens' Emotional Health
Thursday 11 February at 1.00pm

With the pandemic and lockdown, teenagers have not been able to spend time with friends or family as much as they would have liked. With the closure of schools and the cancelation of exams, these are stressful times for teenagers and parents of teenagers. The session by Parenting NI will explore the importance of promoting teenagers' positive emotional health and wellbeing and to promote activities parents can use to enhance their teenagers' social and emotional learning.

You Are What You Eat with Dr Claire McEvoy
Date TBC

With the new year, Dr Claire McEvoy will show staff how to eat effectively and manage diets and the impact of hidden sugars and calories have and how to manage this as part of a healthy diet.


Staff Wellbeing Choir
Every Friday, 1.10-1.50pm, starting Friday 15 January 2021

The Staff Wellbeing Choir meets every Friday lunchtime to join each other in song. The choir learn a variety of songs from gospel, blues, pop, and many more. Going into its 5th year, the choir welcomes all staff with all singing abilities to join them. Throughout the year, the choir is invited to perform across the University at events. For more information, please contact Staff Wellbeing (

Take Notice

Mindfulness with Anne Costello – 6 week programme
Beginning Friday 5 February at 11.00am

Taking notice of you and your surroundings is important for your Wellbeing. Anne Costello will take staff through a Mindfulness programme lasting 6 weeks to help. Anne is the founder and CEO of “Anne Costello Mindfulness” and is passionate about mental health and helping people develop their own inner resources to build resilience in times of stress.

The programme will last 6 weeks and further information about Anne and her work can be found here.

Be Active

Being active is important for both physical and mental health. The NHS recommend that adults should do some type of physical activity every day. It is recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate instensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity per week. It is recommended that we reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity. For further information from the NHS on exercise and tips can be found on the NHS website.


Joyce Johnston
Head of Reward and Wellbeing, People and Culture Directorate