“New Year, New Me” is a phrase commonly heard after the holiday season ends and the New Year is about to begin. It’s generally followed by promises to give up sugar, only drink water, and work out six days per week. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is not realistic and often leads to people giving up on their goals. As a matter of fact, U.S. News reports that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That’s a really high failure rate for tasks that are achievable.
Dr. Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine, says small, incremental lifestyle changes help us stick to, and ultimately reach, our goals. So, this new year, don’t go to the extreme and swear off sugar, dairy, and soda all in one day. Set realistic and manageable goals that you can achieve. For example, if you are trying to cut out sodas, begin by reducing your soda consumption by two sodas per week. Then, slowly decrease the amount of soda you drink until you are at one soda per week. Finally, try going a full week without soda. Taking small steps like these toward your health or fitness goal will help build new (and positive) habits over time and provide a feeling of accomplishment.
To help you set realistic goals for the New Year, have a look at the list below. It comes from the Old Farmer’s Almanac and provides guidance on identifying and reaching your wellness goals.
- Make time to pause and reflect.
- Keep it simple. Settle on one or two things that you really can accomplish. Not a big list.
- Define a goal that is measurable, doable, and specific. “I want to lose weight” is too vague. “I will exercise 30 minutes 2x per week” is specific. Then “pencil in” which days you will exercise so it becomes a habit such as “early Tuesday, early Thursday, Saturday.” If one day doesn’t work out, write in a new day.
- For some folks, it’s better to be more flexible. For example, instead of starting at 20 minutes of exercise 2x per week, say “Exercise a total of one hour over one week.”
- Start small. Then add to your goal.
- Create a short list of diversions that could come up and what you will do in response. For example, if quitting smoking is one of your resolutions, sip on lemon water whenever temptation strikes, or nibble on sunflower seeds. Keep a pencil in your hand to keep it occupied, or play with a yo-yo. If losing weight is a goal, plan on making a cup of herbal tea (or a pitcher!) every afternoon to get you through a midday slump. If you get late-night munchies, be sure to have something healthy to chew on, such as a handful of almonds.
- Create some tools to help yourself reach your goals and keep track of your progress. Tools can help you create some accountability for yourself!
- If you can’t keep the habit going, take a breather. It’s perfectly normal for an approach to fail the first time but don’t give up. After a break, try again. Think about what didn’t work last time. Reflect. Try a different approach that works better for you.
The bottom line when it comes to making and keeping New Year’s resolutions is to create a plan, then work the plan. Give yourself room for small set-backs and celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Being patient and realistic can lead to 2020 being your best year yet!
New Year’s resolutions list adapted from