Keep your New Year’s resolutions by setting the right goals
It is just around the corner.
No, not Christmas or Kwanzaa, but New Year’s Day — the day that almost 50 percent of Americans make resolutions to change their behavior.
Nearly one-third of us will resolve to lose weight; many others will vow to stop smoking, exercise more, get organized and even fall in love. Sadly, within a few short weeks, almost 80 percent of the people who resolved to reinvent themselves have abandoned their resolutions.
Why do so many of us fail, and what can we do to increase the odds of achieving our health and lifestyle goals? Simply put, we need to think more narrowly.
Probably the most common reason people can’t keep their resolutions is that they set goals that are too broad and too lofty. Consider the couch potato who’s hooked on sugar. For that person to set a goal to exercise every day and cut out all sugar probably is unrealistic. A better approach would be to pick one goal and, after making significant and lasting progress, add others.
Many wellness coaches and other experts who work with people on their goals recommend these strategies to ensure success:
Think about it
Take some time to put a plan in place that will lead to success. If you want to quit using tobacco products, the more tools that you use, the more successful you usually will be. Talk with your health care provider about the possibility of using prescription smoking cessation medications and/or nicotine replacement products to increase your success rate. Some medications may take a few weeks to become fully effective. As you work on your stop-smoking plan, be sure to allow time to make a doctor’s appointment, fill prescriptions and wait for medication to take effect. To further increase your success rate, contact the free Kansas Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW or ksquit.org) and consult the counselors about an individualized and comprehensive plan that addresses the physical, behavioral and habitual aspects of your tobacco use.
Make small, realistic and achievable changes. Rather than vowing on Jan. 1 to “diet,” you likely will be more successful if you create a list of small, healthier eating changes that will help you move toward your overall goal of losing weight. The word “diet” implies a start date and a completion date. As many people know, a lot of people who begin a diet and achieve their weight loss goal will then stop the diet and return to their old eating habits — and soon regain any weight lost.
If you know that completely cutting sugar from your diet is not likely to be maintainable over the long term (and it probably isn’t, for most people), try skipping one of the two sodas that you drink each day or restricting your afternoon chocolate bar to once or twice a week and replacing it with a piece of fruit. These types of changes will save you calories, and you’re more likely to maintain them. As these changes become second nature to you, add in other healthier eating steps.
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Rather than declaring that you will exercise more in the new year, formulate that into a SMART goal: “I will walk for 30 minutes three times a week in the morning at the indoor track before I go to work.” SMART goal setting is associated with increased self-accountability and, therefore, likely more achievable.
Setbacks are not failures
Know that setbacks and sidesteps may occur. No one is perfect. Be patient and understanding with yourself, but always keep moving forward.
When quitting smoking, sometimes people fall off the wagon and have a cigarette or two. Don’t beat yourself up and give up. Take a moment to reset, figure out what went wrong and plug that hole so it doesn’t happen again. For example, avoid going to the bar and hanging out with others who smoke until you are completely sure you will not be tempted to have a cigarette. And remember that your resolve can be lowered by alcohol. This type of social situation frequently is associated with resuming the habit.
Get regular support, advice and encouragement. Join a reputable weight loss group or an exercise class. Consult a personal trainer, a nutrition professional or a wellness or life coach. Having some accountability or a sense of belonging either through a class fee or from being part of a support group is often associated with a higher success rate, especially for people who have had previous difficulties maintaining a wellness course. Try to limit your contact with people who are discouraging and who don’t support your goals. The negative messages that you may hear from them can discourage you. Behavior change usually comes from positivity and a forward-looking approach.
How about now?
Why wait for Jan. 1? Today is as good a day as any to begin moving forward with wellness and lifestyle changes. Creating and maintaining a healthier and more satisfying life should be something that you work on most days of the year. Don’t reserve them only for New Year’s Day.
— Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, MA, RN, NBC-HWC, is a registered nurse and wellness specialist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital who is board certified by the Mayo Clinic and the National Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches as a wellness coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.