Making resolutions for the new year
For many people, a new year brings New Year’s resolutions. This sounds great in theory, but it’s hard in practice. What can you do to set realistic New Year’s resolutions and make your resolutions stick? There are a few key strategies.
First, let’s consider why the first day of January is closely tied to setting resolutions. Many people view the end of December and beginning of January as a natural time to look back on their accomplishments of the previous year and have a blank slate for the new year, says Ashleigh Pona, a psychologist with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
There are many types of resolutions that people may decide to make. Here’s a sampling of some of the most popular, according to sources interviewed by U.S. News & World Report:
— Lose weight.
— Exercise more.
— Sleep better.
— Show up to meetings on time, be they in person or virtual.
— Make time during the day for emotional or mental recovery.
— Stop smoking.
— Save more money.
Whether you have one more of these resolutions on your list this year or you have different ones, there are some helpful strategies to stick to your newly set goals.
Be as specific and as realistic as you can.
Saying that you want to lose weight or exercise more is a healthy resolution, but it’s too vague, says Sparta, New Jersey-based registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, author of “2 Day Diabetes Diet.” Instead, you should aim to set SMART goals.
SMART stands for:
SMART goals originally come from the business world. For resolutions, let’s say you’re new to exercise. Instead of just stating that you want to exercise more, your resolution could be to walk 15 minutes a day, three days a week over the next two weeks, Pona says. This type of SMART goal is more specific and realistic. It’s also stronger than a resolution that’s too lofty, such as saying you’ll do 30 minutes daily of heart-pumping cardio exercise.
Only set resolutions for which you’re passionate.
Maybe you feel pressure to set resolutions because your friends are doing so, or you see influencers on social media setting certain resolutions. A better approach: Set resolutions you’re truly excited about, advises Haley Perlus, a sports and performance psychology expert based in Denver.
Beware of any resolutions you plan to make with the word should in them, such as “I should exercise after work” or “I should drink more water.” These types of resolutions are harder to stick to and may put negative pressure on you to meet them, making you less likely to keep them. Use strong statements such as “I will exercise after work” and add on other specific elements as needed.
Track your progress.
When you track your behavior, you’re more likely to make changes you can stick with over time, Palinski-Wade says. Tracking also allows you to spot any barriers to progress, Pona says. For instance, you may notice you had trouble sticking with an exercise goal on a given week because you had to work longer hours.
You can keep progress toward your resolution on paper, on your phone or via apps that help you to track what you’re eating, how often you’re exercising or how you’re spending your money.
Seek support from those close to you.
Getting support from others while following your resolutions is a crucial part of the process. That support can come in different ways. First, try to choose someone who can hold you accountable for your resolutions and who wants you to succeed, Perlus recommends.
Speak with this person regularly about your progress. Also, you can enlist support from loved ones who live in your home, Pona says. In addition to emotional support, those you live with can help on a practical level, such as agreeing to not have certain processed foods in the home.
Many people turn to social media for support, but this is something you’ll want to be thoughtful about when it comes to resolutions, Pona cautions. If you have a very supportive group of followers, then sharing your resolution could provide encouragement. However, if you have mostly acquaintances via social media, then it may not be the right place to garner support.
Turn to professionals if you think you need an additional boost of support.
Health psychologists and therapists can be great resources when it comes to achieving goals and sticking with resolutions, Pona says. They can offer a big-picture perspective on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to meeting goals.
They also provide additional support to achieve resolutions that are particularly challenging, such as weight loss or quitting smoking.
Know that it’s OK to take baby steps.
In fact, small changes are crucial. Consistency is key to setting good habits versus making big changes in a short time period.
“Walking 10 minutes a day, every day for a year has far greater impact on your health than running five miles every day for two weeks and then stopping,” Palinski-Wade says.
Be kind to yourself if you get off track.
Let’s face it, life gets in the way. Additional work, health issues and family responsibilities all can affect your best efforts to keep your resolutions. Self-critical messages can negatively affect progress.
Instead, when you get off track, remind yourself that you’re human and that setting new habits is difficult, Pona recommends. Try to maintain a positive mindset in the new year aim to get back on track once you get past the setback.
Sometimes, the resolutions that you set may be good ones, but you don’t have the time to properly maintain them. Occasionally, you may have to reset your resolution to create more realistic goals.
You may have to commit to exercising a little less frequently or saving a little less money than you originally planned due to other ongoing responsibilities. You could also realize that you’re at a good point to ramp up your goals and aim higher.
After all of your efforts toward a New Year’s resolution, it’s motivating to reward yourself. The key is to find a reward that is a good match for your original goal and the amount of effort you’ve invested so far. You don’t want to reward yourself with a week off of exercise after you’ve exercised consistently for a week, Perlus says.
Think about a reward that’s a reasonable match for your efforts. This could mean:
— A new exercise outfit.
— An outing to a nearby park that you like or have always wanted to visit.
— An affordable spa ritual.
After a year of meeting your goal, you could think bigger with your reward, su
9 Ways to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions:
— Be as specific and as realistic as you can.
— Only set resolutions for which you’re passionate.
— Track your progress.
— Seek support from those close to you.
— Turn to professionals if you think you need an additional boost of support.
— Know that it’s OK to take baby steps.
— Be kind to yourself if you get off track.
— Reward yourself.
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