Sticking to New Year’s Resolutions

As we watch the ball drop, we feel excitement and anticipation as to what the new year will hold. For many of us, we also begin the year with a New Year’s Resolution or few. Did you know this tradition actually dates back about 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians? They started each year (for them, in March instead of January) by making promises to pay off their debts and return borrowed items. Even the Romans used the new year to make promises of good behavior and sacrifices to a god named Janus.

In modern times, studies show that our resolutions most commonly revolve around our health and include weight loss, smoking cessation and exercising more. As most of us know, often, these resolutions are not always successful. In fact, according to U.S. News, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February and it is estimated that only about 8% accomplish the goal in its entirety.

Follow along as we discuss tips to help make you healthier and happier in the new year, perhaps even achieving your resolution.

The number one reason people do not stick to their goals is that they are unrealistic. So what can we do, practically, to help us achieve these resolutions?

Resolutions tend to be broad and big while goals can be smaller and achievable nuggets. Say, for example, your goal is to lose weight this year. You may begin by making a list of individual things you can do, on a daily and weekly basis, to achieve this goal. Here are a few tips that may help get you started:

  • Meal prep! Start by preparing your lunches for the week ahead of time. So often, we do not have time in the mornings to prepare a healthy lunch. By having these meals ready to go in the refrigerator, you can grab and go and have no need for those fast and unhealthy lunches. The same applies for snacks. Prep healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables in individual serving containers so it makes healthy snacking just as convenient as reaching for that bag of chips. Bonus, this will also typically save you money. So if finances are also on your resolution list, you are working toward both goals at once!
  • Try making healthier eating choices slowly. A large change in diet can be difficult to maintain, and can actually be harmful to your health. Start slowly, by replacing one or two meals a week with meatless and nutrient-loaded options. Replace unhealthy snack options with fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. Maybe set a goal of reducing those sugar-laden drinks to only one per day. By breaking up the larger goal of “Eat Healthier” into individual tasks, it becomes more achievable.
  • Be realistic with your exercise goals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. (Or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.) However, if you have not been active much or at all, take this slowly. Begin with the goal of a brisk walk several times a week. Or perhaps join a beginner’s tai chi or yoga class. If you have a fitness tracker, start by finding out your average steps in a day, then try to challenge yourself to beat your average each day.

Having someone, or multiple people, on your team can be very helpful. By being transparent with your goals, achievements, and setbacks, these accountability partners can help you stay on track and help to encourage great choices. Even better is if you can find someone with a similar goal that you can work to achieve together. Trying to quit smoking? Finding a support group or a friend who is also trying to quit smoking can help give you the support you need to make the goal a reality.

Sometimes, the big goal takes a long time to achieve and it is easy to become frustrated with slow progress along the way. Along with breaking down the big goal into smaller, obtainable goals, tracking progress and rewarding yourself is another way to stay motivated to continue the work. Let’s say that you stuck to your meal plan for the entire week. Take this time to reward yourself with a small serving of a favorite treat, a relaxing bath or a cup of your favorite coffee or tea. Simply acknowledging your hard work may be enough to spark the excitement to keep moving forward.

It is important to remember that January 1st is just a day on a calendar. Even if you slip up or revert to old habits, each day is a chance to start again and continue along your journey to a better and healthier you. Big goals take time. Be sure to maintain positive thinking and allow yourself some grace in making large lifestyle changes.

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Written by S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.

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