Nearly half of us make New Year’s resolutions every December 31. We resolve to do all sorts of things in the coming year. Most often, we vow to lose weight, save money, and start exercising. With more enthusiasm than planning, we begin the New Year dedicated to changing our lives for the better.
Typically, the excitement of New Year’s resolutions lasts until sometime around the end of January. That’s when most people give up on them. Why does this happen? There are many reasons. Experts agree that one of the biggest reasons people fail is that resolutions are not detailed enough. People make resolutions without thinking about the steps they need to take to make them a reality.
If you truly want to succeed in keeping your resolutions, think small. Instead of big-picture objectives (“I want to lose weight”), consider something that requires one absolute action (“I will eat salad for lunch every workday”).
Your success increases if your resolutions are things you truly want to do, and not just things you deny yourself. If you haven’t had much luck with your resolutions, don’t give up. People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than people who don’t make resolutions. And reaching a goal is important. Some researchers report a link between goal-setting and living a longer life.
Path to improved health
It’s time to rethink your New Year’s resolutions. Out with the old and in with the new. As you consider what to put on your list, try to think outside the “weight loss and healthy eating” blanket resolutions. Instead, break it down. Think of something in particular that you can do that will contribute to that overall goal. For example, you could commit to drinking more water each day.
And don’t think only about your body. Think about setting small goals that challenge your brain. Consider things that will improve your relationships. Most of all, have fun with it. If you make resolutions simple, measurable, and fun, you are more likely to succeed.
To get started, consider some of these resolutions that guarantee to put you on a healthy path in mind, body, and soul. Most require only a single action to begin.
- Sign up for a team. Instead of simply resolving to exercise, consider signing up for a recreation league sports team. You’ll have so much fun that it won’t even feel like working out. Plus, accountability partners are built-in. Having others to partner with will help you be more accountable in maintaining your goals.
- Take a class. No matter what you want to learn, signing up for a class is a sure way to follow through. Whether you take an art class or a computer programming class, it will give you time to be creative and challenge your brain.
- Forgive someone. These two words seem simple, but could be the most difficult thing on your list. Know this: Forgiveness not only is good for the soul, but also offers real health benefits. It will lower your blood pressure, relieve stress, and even boost your immune system.
- Write a letter to someone you care about. Not an email or a text. A real, old-fashioned letter. Research suggests that letter-writing makes you happy, especially if the letter is telling someone that you care for or appreciate them. Bonus: It will make someone else happy, too.
- Go to the doctor. Sure, you have a million reasons why you can’t bother to go to the doctor. Make this the year that you put those aside. It’s important to see your doctor, especially if you aren’t feeling well or notice changes with your body. It’s the best way to establish a good relationship with your doctor, too, for when you really need him or her.
- Leave work at work. People who can successfully separate work from home are happier at both places. Try to be fully engaged at work so that you don’t need to think about it at home, and vice versa. And if you have vacation time, use it.
- Visit one place you have never been. Whether it’s a Mediterranean cruise or a trip across the state, explore. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to add to your travel experience. According to research surveys, people feel happier when they plan a trip at least once a year.
- Go to sleep. It’s time to put priority on sleep. That’s true no matter what your age. If you aren’t getting enough sleep because of a late bedtime, change it. If you can’t sleep because you keep waking up at night or can’t get to sleep in the first place, it could be time to see your doctor. Prolonged lack of sleep can lead to serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
- Diversify your life. When is the last time you took a hard look at your circle of friends? Does it include people from a wide variety of backgrounds? If not, it’s time to put on a smile and get out there to make some new friends. Look for older friends who can offer you their experience in life. Look for younger friends who can keep you on trend. Look for friends from different countries who can add culture to your life. In other words, having friends who are different than you can add more dimension to your life.
- Turn off your phone. Find a time each day that you can put your phone on silent or turn it off completely. That way, you can focus on the people around you. Or simply unplug and relax. There are well-documented health benefits for doing so. Unplugging will increase your focus and boost your mood. It also helps in problem-solving. If you unplug at bedtime, you’ll sleep better. Unplugging also relieves stress and adds to creativity.
Things to consider
When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, you set yourself up to fail. Don’t do that this year. Make small resolutions that add up to something big. For example, if you want to lose weight, your resolutions could be to walk 30 minutes each day, to not eat after 7 p.m., and to stop drinking soda.
Plan for obstacles. What will you do when it’s raining outside and you can’t go for a walk? If you have a backup plan in place, you’re more likely to stick to the plan. It shouldn’t require any on-the-spot thinking, just doing.
You may have failure along the way, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. Simply keep following the plan.
When to see a doctor
You should talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, traveling internationally, taking supplements, or modifying your diet in an extreme way. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the safest way to achieve your goals.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Do I need special immunizations for traveling abroad?
- Should Zika limit my travel to South America?
- Can I begin a high-impact exercise program?
- Can I begin a low-calorie diet?
- Should I be taking diet supplements or vitamins?
- Can you offer a prescription that will help me stop smoking?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.