By Kylaas Flanagan, SWUPHD Health Educator
Here are some familiar examples of New Year’s resolutions you’ll hear every year:
– I’m going to lose weight!
– I’m going to the gym every day!
– I’m not going to eat junk food!
– I’m going to quit smoking!
– I’m going to spend time with my family!
– I’m going to travel to new places!
Do you see a problem here? All of these are too vague – and too big – to accomplish with just willpower alone, and most New Year’s resolutions are built on a foundation of willpower instead of planning and preparation. The most effective way to accomplish your resolutions is through gradual, predictable, and incremental changes.
Here are two rules to use when making any change:
1) Create a S.M.A.R.T. goal
2) Keep your time frames short – only one or two weeks per goal
Rule #1: S.M.A.R.T. Goals
These goals have five characteristics. They are:
This means having a clear objective. You know what you have to do to accomplish the goal. “I’m going to spend time with my family” is a great idea, but at some point, you need to get down to the details.
You need to have some type of outcome that can be measured. It doesn’t matter how big or small that measurement is, just that you can keep track of it.
Ask yourself “Can I actually do this thing in this time frame?” you can set a goal of dead-lifting 800 pounds by tomorrow, but there’s really no way to accomplish that goal without the use of a forklift.
Every goal can be too easy or too difficult. Find a middle ground that allows you to stretch your body and mind.
At what point will you hold yourself accountable?
Let’s re-frame the New Year’s resolutions mentioned above:.
– By January 15th, I’m going to lose three pounds by eating from home and taking a 20 minute walk each day.
– I’m going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next two weeks.
– I’m going to rid my pantry of junk food this Saturday. On Sunday, I will plan my meals for next week.
– By the end of the week, I will contact WayToQuit.org and see what quit services would be best to help me quit tobacco use.
– By next Thursday, I will identify four activities that my family would enjoy which use less than $20.
– On Friday, I will spend 20 minutes with my spouse to find three places we’d like to go this year. On Saturday, I will spend one hour to calculate how to finance those trips.
Much better (and more do-able), right? You’ll I feel great when you check your first goal off the list, then making another one for the next two weeks.
Rule #2: Two Weeks or Less
Try to set your time frames for under two weeks. You can easily plan for those goals because two weeks from now isn’t a long span of time, unlike months or years. Having an overarching goal of “by the end of the year I want to fit into these pants without struggling” is great, but having 25 two-week goals to get there will definitely be more effective.
Another problem of the common New Year’s resolutions is that they are just that – common. I Why not spice it up a little bit? Consider making a competition between:
– Taking the stairs and taking the elevator
– Consecutive hours sitting and the number of five minute walks you take in a day
– Miles walked and hours in front of a screen
– Servings of fruits & vegetables and the number of sweets you consume
– Hours at the gym and hours on the couch
– Servings of sugary drinks versus servings of water
Keep track of your progress in a visual way. Write it down in a notebook, hang a chart on your fridge, or make a note on your phone; just make sure you’ll see it every day. Constant reminders that you are working on positive changes in your life are influential to your success.
The goal should be to improve. Try to increase the positive and decrease the negative even if the change seems small right now. You can easily move your intensity up over the course of several days.
Remember, keep it short! Start out with one of these for a week, then move up. Later on in the year, you’ll keep remembering that you did that one challenge, and it felt good. So why not do it again? Also, having a pro and a con to work on helps because you’re not “just” depriving yourself of the things that you want to do; you’re also substituting healthier options that make you feel better in the long run.
What do you do for New Year’s resolutions? Have you had success in previous years, or is this the year to buck the trend? If you try these ideas out, feel free to tell us how it went, along with any tips that might help others along their journey to a healthier year.
All the best!