7 Incredibly Clever Ways to Stick With New Year’s Health Resolutions

It can be daunting when a list of New Year’s Resolutions is as long as a shopping list. Not only does everyone have to deal with the post-holiday slump, but staying on a tight schedule as to when the goals get completed can add to the anxiety. With Christmas well passed the frustration of not following through with health goals or not using that gym membership yet can lead to feeling hopeless. However, it’s important to remember that the New Year is a time to make positive lifestyle changes and not be hard on yourself for unrealistic expectations you can’t meet. In the Body Reboot book, we discuss how you can make positive lifestyle changes for your health and how to get there. We also provide you with some tips below on how you can stick to your New Year’s health resolutions without throwing in the towel.

Make Goals Attainable

CBS News says it’s all about making goals attainable. Otherwise, you may be tempted not to follow through. If goals are unrealistic and you can’t meet them, then you’re likely to give up. Start small and if you accomplish those goals move on to setting bigger goals.

Making a resolution to lose weight, for example, is too general a notion that does not give you something specific to work towards or a well-defined path to follow. Similarly, if you want to be more physically fit, but have barely gotten off the couch in two years, planning to run a marathon isn’t going to be feasible. And aspiring to not only lose weight and run a marathon, but also learn a new skill, a new language, and a new instrument? That’s just setting yourself up for failure.

“I think we try to set not only too extensive of a goal but also too many goals,” Graef told CBS News. “We might really try to shoot for the moon too quickly and that doesn’t work out, or not only do we want to go to the moon but we want to go to Mars and Neptune and Saturn. And if we try to do all of those, we don’t have the mental and physical resources to be able to accomplish that.”

As Opposed to Scheduling it, Plan it After Another Habit

According to Health, the key to following through on a positive health change is by scheduling it right after another habit. An example would be as soon as you get up and take your medicine, go on a short walk around the block. Scheduling a new task after an existing habit can make the original goal a little less daunting.

“Planning a new habit for a certain time of day means watching the clock and remembering when to do it,” says Jeremy Dean, PhD, author of the new book Making Habits, Breaking Habits. Instead, make it second nature: Use an already-formed habit as your cue. If you always wash your hands then change clothes after you get home from work, tack on your new jogging routine right after the last thing you do.

Start Small

As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to start small. Why is this? Because if you start with big goals, you can’t accomplish you may not accomplish them at all. To stay on course Forbes recommends starting small and tying exercise to rewards, such as watching a beautiful sunset on a hike.

If your resolution is a lofty one — say, hitting the gym five days a week when you’ve been a couch potato for the past 12 months — you may be setting yourself up for failure, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). A better and more achievable goal is to start small by aiming to work out twice a week in January, building up to three times a week in February and so on.

Rose Taroyan, MD, assistant professor of clinical family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a primary care physician at Keck Medicine of USC, suggests doing 30 minutes of daily activity and gradually working your way up. Dr. Taroyan says you can split these up into three 10-minute activities, such as walking the dog or doing yard work, as well as tying exercise to rewards, such as watching TV while on the treadmill.

In addition, she says, “Eating healthy is all about setting a dietary pattern to follow which becomes part of daily regimen. Add more fresh fruits and vegetables; limit sweets, sugar and saturated fats; cook at home; and eat smaller portions.”

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Beating yourself up is the last thing you should do, or at least that’s what American Psychological Association says. If you make a mistake press on as opposed to being hard on yourself. Not everything is going to go as planned, and that’s okay.

Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

Make SMART Goals

Have you heard of SMART goals? CBS News elaborates more on why SMART goals are so important and why you should follow them:

When it comes to setting goals, stick to the SMART method. That means making your goals:

    Specific
    Measurable
    Achievable
    Relevant
    Time-based

“This gets people to identify very concrete and specific steps,” Lawson said. “You might have a grand goal of ‘I want to be a better person,’ but OK, let’s bring that home and figure out what that actually looks like and how you can move in that direction. It’s not that you can’t have those lofty goals, but bring them down and make them concrete.” For example, if your goal is to think more positive thoughts, Lawson recommends setting an alarm on your watch or phone twice a day and when it goes off, take a moment to think about something specific that you’re grateful for.

Ask for Support

Sometimes you need a little help to keep pressing on, which is why the American Psychological Association says you should ask those who care about you how you can best stick to your goals.

Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your resolution. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable, as well as help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.

Make it Personal

The New York Times says it’s better to accomplish new routines than not do anything at all. Also, making it personal can help spur you on and urge you not to give up.

Of course, the cue and routine for a common bad habit, like smoking, is as individual as the person trying to quit. You may need to do some work to figure out what the real cue for the habit you want to change is, and then what will replace it.

Both the cue and reward should be easy and obvious. Let’s look at one example in depth. For running, a cue could be just putting on your running clothes, even if at first you don’t do anything after that. “Oftentimes when people have never exercised before, and researchers are working with them to get them to exercise, the first week is: You should just put on your running clothes. Don’t even leave the house,” Mr. Duhigg said. Then add the first step in the new routine: Put on running clothes, walk around the block. “You want to create an environment where you’re making very slow progress that is guaranteed to deliver victories to you,” he said.

And then the reward at the end of the action must be an actual reward, too, so that it reinforces the routine and makes you want to do it. “Otherwise your brain won’t latch onto the behavior,” Mr. Duhigg said.

Don’t give up on following through with your New Year’s goals – it’s possible with a little bit of dedication and keeping your goals achievable! To help you stick to your goals, right now we’re giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book! Cover the cost of shipping, and we’ll send you a FREE book. Head to this page and find out if there are any copies left.

Sources: Health, American Psychological Association, CBS News, Forbes, The New York Times

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