Tips for making better resolutions and sticking with them
Once again, it’s time to decide if you will be making a New Year’s resolution. As many as half of Americans will make one, so how can you make sure you stick to yours?
First, take some time to think about your resolution. What do you want to focus on in 2022? Some resolutions focus on eating a healthier diet, exercising more, making better financial choices, spending more time with family or quitting smoking. Choose something that is important to you and then develop a plan. Your plan should include your overall goal and steps to help you reach that goal. Be sure to identify anything you anticipate may knock you off track. Knowing what you want to accomplish and what obstacles stand in your way will help you to stick to your resolution and overcome barriers before they become setbacks.
Start with small steps. If you take on too much exercise or begin a restrictive diet, it may be difficult to maintain that extreme level. If you start slow and gradually increase your physical activity and slowly remove items from your diet, the small steps can help you achieve your large goal. If your goal is to stop smoking, your first step could be to meet with your health care provider to discuss medications or smoking cessation aids that may help you in your efforts to quit. Another free resource is the Kansas Quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can also visit lmh.org to register for a one-on-one smoking cessation program tailored to your needs.
When making goals, try using the acronym SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Instead of saying something vague, like that you plan to exercise more, make a SMART goal, such as, “I will walk for 30 minutes, four times a week on the sidewalks around my house when I get home from work.” A SMART goal for nutrition would be, “I plan to eat one cup of broccoli with my evening meal on each weekday.” The more details you provide, the harder it is to come up with excuses. If you identify exactly what your plan is and how to do it, it leaves little room for confusion or opportunities to get derailed.
Focus on one goal at a time. We can be tempted to make multiple changes all at once in hopes of quickly achieving a large goal. However, that rarely works. Instead, focus on one goal at a time for long-term success. If you have a large goal, break it down into more manageable small goals and celebrate your successes as you go. Celebrating your accomplishments will help you to stay motived as you continue your efforts in achieving your overall goal.
You do not have to remove things from your life to reach your goal. Instead, you can incorporate small changes into your day. You don’t have to think of New Year’s resolutions as punitive or only items you take away from yourself. New Year’s resolutions can be small benefits you add to your day. Parking farther away from the grocery store, your workplace and other destinations will add more steps to your daily routine. You can practice deep breathing at stop lights or during the commercials of your favorite shows to help manage stress. You can also add fruit to your desserts, reduce your portion size at each meal or add a glass of water to your meals to improve your health. Small changes make it easier to incorporate healthy habits into your day and are more likely to lead to success.
There is nothing that says you have to start your resolution on Jan. 1. Take the time to set yourself up for success. If it makes better sense for you to start in February, then start in February. Holidays can be a busy time, so if waiting gives you time to make goals and locate resources, then start when you are ready. It can also give you time to find more support. If you want to exercise more, then a class or personal trainer may be motivating to you. LMH Health has a variety of classes to help you get active. Visit lmh.org to learn about RunStrong, tai chi and other activities. Groups who share your goals can also be helpful and share support. Friends or family may also want to help you in reaching your goals. You may have a co-worker who is interested in exchanging healthy recipes or going for a walk each day. Sharing your goals can help you find resources and share motivation.
The new year is a great time to focus on your health and take some time for yourself. Use this time as a starting point in your efforts to become healthier throughout the year. Remember that small changes today can create and build new healthy habits for the whole year and beyond.
— Allison Koonce is community outreach and engagement supervisor at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Journal-World’s health section.