A lot is made of New Year’s resolutions. Most of what I read and hear is somewhat cynical about their lack of success. Allow me to put a more positive spin on this long-standing, annual tradition.
Sure, statistics show that after six months just over half of the resolutions made are forgotten. But that means that almost half are still successfully carried out. People are at least indicating a desire and at least an inkling of motivation to make changes, which is the first step in the process of change. So let’s say the glass is almost half full!
OK, so what can we do to make the proverbial glass overfloweth? Here are some tips that may be helpful:
- Make a plan. We all make plans every day. When confronted with a problem we normally determine the steps that we must take to find a solution. At work, for example, we devise step-by-step plans to complete projects. We think about potential obstacles and barriers that we may encounter and how to deal with them. Making lifestyle changes is no different. Think about your daily routine and determine where physical activity can fit. Maybe not 30-minute blocks, but three ten-minute ones, or two 15-minute ones. Buy containers and foods you can use to pack healthy lunches for work. Purchase a microwave steamer so you can make quick and easy steamed veggies for dinner. Just a bit of planning and effort will help ensure success.
- Make it a priority. Just as other important things in your life, lifestyle habits need to be given high priority status. After all, if your health goes, everything else becomes moot!
- Start small. Don’t be in a hurry; this is something you want to do for the rest of your life. Small, gradual changes can more easily be incorporated into your lifestyle, as they are not as daunting as major changes from your usual way of doing things. Therefore, they have a greater chance of lasting until they have become a habit. Slow and gradual is particularly good for a new physical activity plan. You are much more likely to avoid the excessive soreness and injury that can be a real show-stopper!
- Make it an adventure. Have fun with it. Do physical activities that you like and will continue. You don’t have to go to a gym. Join a dance club, Master Gardeners, a walking club – you get the idea! Take the time when grocery shopping to look for healthy foods and beverages that appeal to you. Learn about all the different types of foods and beverages that exist – they’re endless! Make it fun, not drudgery.
- Buddy up! Find friends or family members that will accompany you on your quest for health. The more the merrier; you can reinforce each other. It’s more difficult not showing up for your daily walk if you know someone else is expecting you. If you do join a gym, get to know some of the other members. The energy and support of others is invaluable, not to mention fulfillment from the socialization aspects.
- Make it who you are. Visualize yourself as a healthy person. Practice seeing yourself in this way and your self-image will change. Then the self-fulfilling prophesy will work for you!
- Get help from professionals. Be sure to get annual health checkups from your primary care physician. Get with a personal trainer before embarking on an ambitious workout routine. Consult with a registered dietitian to learn how to eat a well-balanced diet to reach and maintain a healthy weight and get all the nutrition you need.
Following these tips will greatly increase the probability of success in accomplishing our resolutions. And if we’re not successful at first, we should try again. Think of each attempt as practice – and practice increases our chances of success. After all, resolutions can be make anytime, not just January 1. Let’s get that glass full!
(Check out the chapters on establishing healthy habits and keeping New Year’s resolutions in David Rath’s book Diets are Hard This is Easy. Go to Amazon.com and search by title or author name.)