Whether you're trying to drop five pounds, cut back on sugar or exercise
more regularly, New Year's resolutions can be tough to keep. After
all, if it was easy, we wouldn't have to resolve to make these life
changes. In fact, forming a habit can take time, says
Douglas Clark, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. "A study in the
European Journal of Social Psychology estimated people take an average of 66 days to make a new habit stick,
which can seem like a long time if you are working toward a major lifestyle
change." But there are ways to make the process more enjoyable, which
in turn can make it easier to keep those New Year's health resolutions.
1. Make it manageable. "Losing 30 pounds may seem daunting, and if a goal seems unreachable
or hard to attain, you may get discouraged and just abandon the resolution,"
Dr. Clark says. "But losing five pounds is a great jump start, and
can motivate you to lose another five pounds, and another, and so on."
Small goals that are easily achievable can make resolution keeping more
fun, especially if you follow the next guideline...
2. Reward yourself. Once you break down your resolution goal into smaller stages, build in
a reward once you complete each step. "If you've cut soda out
of your diet for two weeks, for instance, treat yourself to a night out
at the movies, or buy a new item of clothing if you've worked out
five times a week," Dr. Clark says.
3. Avoid the same old, same old. It's a new year, so introduce some variety into your routine. "If
exercising more often is your resolution, buy some new workout gear or
create a playlist of heart-pounding music. You can also try a new type
of workout--if you're spun out on spin class, look into something
different like salsa dancing or boot camp," Dr. Clark says. "If
you want to cook healthier meals, find a cookbook or look on Pinterest
for new recipes to try. Avoiding boredom can help keep things fresh, and
it can be easier to press on toward your goal."
4. Put it in writing. "Remember how good it felt as a kid when your teacher gave you a
gold star for a job well done? Use that principle as a visual reward for
honoring your resolution," Dr. Clark says. It can be as simple as
going online and printing out a chart or calendar, or creating your own,
where you can track how you're doing at working toward your goal.
For each day of success, mark the chart with a happy face, a sticker...or
even a gold star.
5. Use the buddy system. "Find a friend with a similar resolution and partner up," Dr.
Clark says. "If you both are trying to lose weight, set up a time
to take walks together or meet at the gym. If the two of you want to move
toward a plant-based diet, get together for 'meatless Monday'
dinner parties and cook a vegetarian meal. A friend can be a great source
of accountability and support when you feel your resolve weakening, and
can celebrate you when you reach a milestone."
6. Make a "fun" resolution. Many times, resolutions can feel like a chore and you may feel like you
are depriving yourself--just ask anyone who's had to pass up the dessert
cart because they are trying to lose weight. "Along with those kinds
of resolutions, try setting one that brings pleasure into your life,"
Dr. Clark says. "For instance, you can decide to meet a different
friend for lunch each month, or play with your kids more on the weekends,
or simply do something kind for someone else on a regular basis. These
simple acts can be an immediate source of joy and satisfaction,"
Dr. Clark says.
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What's your resolution for a healthier New Year? Share a comment below.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.