A Roadmap to Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes
If you wanted to commit to doing something but were warned ahead of time that there was a 92% likelihood you’d fail, would you still do it?
Your answer after reading that statistic would probably be no. But if you’re like most people who make resolutions each new year, your answer is actually yes. Each January, many of us make promises to ourselves to exercise more, eat healthier, get more sleep, stop smoking or drinking, save money or achieve other goals related to our physical, mental, social, professional or financial well-being. But studies show that less than 10% of us even make it to the end of January before giving up. Then, we feel like a failure and are even less motivated to make any changes in our lives going forward.
When you have a goal you’d like to reach, there are several ways to ensure you’ll be more successful. These include:
- Change your vocabulary. For many people, the word “resolution” is part of the problem, as we’ve come to associate it with negativity. To have a better chance at success, dump the word resolution and instead think of the lifestyle changes you want to make as goals, plans or intentions.
- Shift your perspective. Use only positive words when outlining your goals. High-pressure terms like quit, never and forever are too restrictive and will surely increase your failure rate. For example, if you’d like to start eating healthier, don’t announce that you’ll “never eat fast food or junk food again.” Instead, try something like “My intention is to make wiser food choices, and that includes limiting things like fried foods, soda and candy.”
- Make specific, realistic goals. It’s too much pressure to declare, “I’m going to exercise every single day for at least an hour each day.” That would be pretty tough for anyone to stick to. Instead of a broad, unreachable goal, try a more specific, realistic one, like, “I’d like to lose 10 pounds, so my goal is to take a walk or ride my bike at least three times a week for 20-30 minutes.”
- Break down your goal. Don’t shoot for one big goal, but instead split it into a series of smaller goals that are much more manageable. For instance, instead of stating that you want to lose 20 pounds by summer, plan to lose 5 pounds this month. Then make a new goal for the next month and so on until you reach your ultimate goal. The satisfaction you feel when you reach a smaller goal will give you the confidence to keep up with your overall plan.
- Reward yourself. Celebrate each time you reach one a smaller goal – it will make you feel good about continuing. Just make sure any rewards don’t set you back and make your goal even harder to reach. For example, if you meet a weight-loss goal, consuming an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting wouldn’t be an appropriate reward. Instead, treat yourself to a pair of better-fitting jeans or some new workout clothes.
- Rely on your support system. You’ll feel more accountable if you tell others about your intentions. Find friends and family members who will encourage you on your wellness journey, not discourage you. If they’re aware of your goals, they’ll also be less likely to unknowingly sabotage your efforts (for instance, trying to push dessert on you when they don’t know you’re limiting sweets).
- Go easy on yourself. Even with these tips for making resolutions easier to keep, you may not reach your goals, and that’s okay. At least you tried, which means you’re already aware that lifestyle changes are important to you. That alone will give you the motivation to try again when you’re ready. And remember, you don’t have to wait until January rolls around to begin again.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 13, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD