Face it, everyone is doing it. We feel compelled to join in the tradition of taking a good hard look at our lives, evaluating our faults and flaws, and making resolutions to start anew. We promise this will be the year we finally lose weight, get more exercise, quit smoking, and manage to drink less alcohol. Sounds good, but how many of us follow through and keep the promises we make to ourselves?
The majority of New Year’s resolutions are sincere. No one tells themselves or others, “I am going to make a half-hearted attempt at living a healthier lifestyle.” People want to make positive changes and make them stick. The dismal reality is that only 8 percent of people who make a New Year’s resolutions follow through and can say at the end of the year that they kept their promises to themselves.
According to a University of Scranton survey recently published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of Americans make resolutions. Eight percent succeed, 49 percent report “infrequent” success, and 24 percent report they’ve failed.
Step 1: Get Real
If you want to modify or make significant lifestyle changes, it’s best to start small rather than trying to obtain an unrealistic goal. If you set realistic goals, it is much easier to follow through to the end of the year.
Forget attempting to overhaul your entire lifestyle. It doesn’t work and only sets you up for disappointment and failure. Tackle one issue at a time, working to incorporate small lifestyle behavioral changes into your daily routine
Step 2: Remove Temptation
If you want to quit smoking, put away the ashtrays, throw away your matches, air out the house. If losing weight is your goal, clean out the cabinets and refrigerator of items that will sabotage your goal. Stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks.
Use the stairs at your office building rather than opting to use the elevator. Set a timer and get up from your desk and move around at least once an hour, go outside and play with your children, take a walk.
Although they seem like small changes, any increase in your level of physical activity burns calories, improves flexibility and balance, and distracts the mind from the desire to have a snack, drink, or a smoke.
Step 3: Quit Whining
You and you alone are responsible for your behavior. No one made you eat that whole bag of potato chips. Stop blaming others for your lack of resolve.
No matter your resolution, it is vital to develop a strong sense of self-worth and take responsibility for your future.
Step 4: Ask Yourself If You’re Doing It For You
If your goal is to quit smoking, lose a few pounds to please your boyfriend or control your alcohol consumption in response to peer pressure, it is unlikely you will stay goal-focused.
Positive changes happen when you do something for yourself, not someone else. Look at what you wish to achieve as a gift you give yourself; something you realize for yourself, not something you do to please others.
Step 5: Prepare A Plan
Look back on past resolutions. Ask yourself: Did I succeed in meeting my goals? If not, why? Until you figure out what didn’t work last time around, it is hard to create a viable plan for the months ahead.
Millions of people in the United States resolve to lose weight, so you are not alone. Current statistics indicate that 70 percent of adult Americans are considered obese or overweight. Staying focused and setting reasonable goals are two of the most integral elements to sticking to a diet and physical fitness plan.
Clarify your goal. Envision what you want accomplished by the end of the year. Work backward to determine objectives necessary to get there. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds, your target might be to lose about two or three pounds per month. Keep a journal. A private journal is a great place to vent your frustrations, remind yourself of goals, and chart your progress.
Step 6: Talk To Your Doctor
Concentrate on how your resolution will change your life. As an example, quitting smoking dramatically reduces the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Losing weight decreases the chances of developing diabetes by as much as 60 percent.
A physical check-up will identify health issues that should be considered in a plan to obtain optimum health. Your healthcare provider can help you set realistic goals and plan a strategy to meet your objectives.
Step 7: Seek Support
Stick to a goal with the encouragement of family and friends. When you share your goals publically, your support network helps keep you accountable.
Join a tobacco-free support group providing 24/7 telephone or online chat support. Free nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and other motivational tools are available to make quitting a realistic goal. Don’t think you can do it without help; you already know that doesn’t work.
Bulletproof writes on why New Year’s resolutions fail, noting that “a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found a lack of social support increased cortisol, heart rate, and anxiety. All of these factors weaken your ability to stick to your goals. To succeed with your New Year’s resolutions, seek support from friends and family and take breaks. Mistakes are part of success. Don’t be afraid to make them. If you don’t get support from your friends, your first goal should be to get some new ones.”
If you make a slip, have a drink, or overindulge in unhealthy snacks, don’t let one error in judgment be a stumbling block: Get over it. Get back on track and do not berate yourself. Resolve to stick to your plan, and you will find commitment pays.
If you desire to back off of consuming so much alcohol, visit Alcoholics Annonymous, join a twelve-step program, and get a sponsor. AA-intergroup.org offers online counseling and support.
So maybe you have heard that one before; maybe you have tried it and failed. That doesn’t mean you will fail this time. You can’t follow through on your resolution unless you are proactive and seek out the support you need. If AA isn’t for you, seek private counseling, go into rehab, or seek out the support of your priest or spiritual advisor.
Step 8: Create A List Of Rewards
Think of rewards to give yourself as you accomplish your goals. As you work through your resolutions, celebrate your success with a personal reward to help you stay motivated.
If you have made progress on reaching your weight loss goal, that doesn’t mean you can then reward yourself with a cheeseburger or a piece of cream pie. Instead, reward yourself with a new outfit that flatters your figure, and then sit back and savor the compliments as friends and family acknowledge the positive changes you have accomplished.
Step 9: Stop Making Excuses
If you are already telling yourself how hard it is to quit smoking, give up unhealthy eating habits or exit an abusive relationship, you are doomed to fail. Stop providing yourself with excuses. Instead, remind yourself that you have tackled harder challenges than this one in the past, and you are now more aware than you were then and armed with experience.
You can do this! Identify your excuses for not following through with prior resolutions. By reviewing your excuses, you can see them for what they are and move beyond the fear of growth and change.
Regardless of which health resolution you select to attempt to reach, whether it is quitting smoking, losing weight, reaching your physical fitness goals, getting more sleep, or eliminating alcohol, you can increase your chances of success by making small habit changes.
Hurdles to honoring your New Year’s resolutions are self-imposed. If in the past you have ended up feeling frustrated, exasperated, and guilty about your lack of success, ask yourself if the goals set were just too ambitious to be obtained.
Plan carefully to ensure you reach your goals. If you vow to never eat red meat again, you will likely fail. If you make a plan only to eat red meat once a week, you will have a much greater chance of staying on track.
Step 10: Encourage Some Healthy Competition
Reinforce your motivation by engaging in a healthy competition with others with the same goals. Find a fitness buddy, and together you can encourage each other to meet your goals.
Step 11: Make It A Habit
Habits are powerful tools that can make or break our resolve. The majority of our daily actions are based on habits, not decisions. Habits are the brain’s lazy way of conserving energy through a routine that does not involve making a choice. Everything in life is about choices; make good ones.
- Lose weight? Check. Start exercising? Check. Stop smoking? Check, American Psychological Association
- Making Smart New Year Resolutions, Healthy Living
- Making Your Resolutions Stick, National Institute of Health