Losing weight. Exercising. Eating better.
Have you ever made a promise to yourself to give up all of your unhealthy habits with the intention of making sweeping changes on New Year’s Day, only to fail a few days or weeks later?
The combination of the post-holiday blues and giving up on resolutions makes for a mental health slump by the time February arrives.
Not sticking to resolutions set on January 1 can lead to feelings of failure and hopelessness. However, being hard on yourself isn’t going to make you stick with your plans.
So what is the key to making resolutions and ensuring they stick? There are several strategies you can use to make sustainable changes that you feel good about.
Make resolutions you can keep. Want to lose weight? Set an initial goal of five pounds (or a number you and your doctor decide is best for you).
If you want to exercise more, start from where you are.
If you already exercise a few times per week, increase the duration or add an extra day. If you don’t exercise at all, start by going for a 20-minute walk a few times per week and increasing the duration after a certain period of time. If your goal is to get more quality sleep, start tracking your sleep and improving your before-bedtime habits. Making small changes ensures that you do not get overwhelmed.
What is it that you actually want to do? Losing weight and eating healthy aren’t specific enough. Set a concrete goal or habit that you want to make. Here are some examples:
|Take vitamins||Take a multivitamin daily|
|Read more||Read for 30 minutes daily|
|Eat healthy||Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily|
|Improve my sleep health||Stop using electronics an hour before bedtime|
When making your resolutions specific, use the SMART method. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Perfection is not attainable or sustainable. Life is not a straight line and sometimes we make a wrong turn. Don’t give up because you ate a candy bar after eating an adequate amount of vegetables for five days. Instead, celebrate your vegetable eating and get back to it the next day!
>>Shop mood support supplements
Change one habit at a time
Replacing old habits with healthier habits will not happen overnight. Making drastic changes is overwhelming and sets you up for failure. Changing your habits one at a time makes you more likely to stick to them for a long period of time.
Find a support group
You are more likely to stick with your goals when working to achieve them with someone else. Find an accountability buddy or a virtual support group that helps you stay accountable and motivated to achieve your goals! Plus, having a partner helps reduce stress surrounding your goal and helps you adjust your strategy when you need it.
In 2019, Forbes reported that a study at Dominican University discovered that 43% of people who wrote down their goals achieved them. Journaling is a great way to visualize your goals and remember them. Plus, when you write about your goals, you can record how you feel about steps you have made to achieve them, how you feel when you achieve them, and set new milestones!
Avoid past failures
Do you set the same resolution over and over again and never achieve it? This results in low self-belief and even low self-esteem. Change your approach to start fresh, don’t beat yourself up for failing, and know that failure is a normal part of life. If we don’t fail, we never tried in the first place!
Rewarding yourself is an important part of celebrating achieving a goal. It makes you feel good and reinforces your hard work. Rewards can be as big or as small as you want. For example, if you achieved your goal of running five miles, reward yourself with a relaxing bubble bath. Did you work out consistently for a month after starting a new exercise habit? Invest in new workout clothes that make you feel good. Getting your 30 minutes of reading done? Indulge in a cup of your favorite tea at the same time.
Ideas for resolutions
Do you need help setting a sustainable and specific resolution? Here are some ideas:
- Cook a new healthy recipe each week
- Create a cleaning schedule and checklist to maintain the home and decrease stress
- Designate a time for meal preparation
- Schedule all of your necessary doctor visits at the beginning of the year so you don’t skip them
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Purchase a large, marked water bottle and set a daily ounces goal
- Listen to audiobooks during workouts
- Try a new exercise each week
- Clean out your closet and donate anything that doesn’t fit or that you haven’t worn
- Take a real lunch break
- Set a designated bedtime and keep it
- Once per month, try a new fruit or vegetable that you have never eaten
- Have a virtual coffee date with a friend the same time each week
Be kind to yourself
The most important thing to remember when you are setting new goals and resolutions is to be kind to yourself.
Beating yourself up with negative self talk will decrease your self-esteem and not get you any closer to your goals.
Be accountable, be honest about what you did or did not do to achieve your goals, and never give up! The road to self-improvement is not an instant or an overnight accomplishment. By making small changes consistently over a specific period of time, you will begin to see the changes you want to make in your life and maintain them for years to come.