The holiday season is upon us and amidst all the Christmas songs, shopping lists and card signing, you’re starting to hear the voice in your head that says: don’t forget about your new year’s resolution! If you set a resolution every year, only to find it takes you nowhere or ends badly, it’s time to make a change.
First off, if resolutions work for you, and you set them every year and find success, maybe nothing is wrong with them. But if you set them every year and don’t see success, your mind is already in that place of “resolutions don’t work for me,” and you are setting yourself up for the opposite of success. And who wants to set themselves up for failure?
Often it’s not that the resolution itself is bad, it’s the conditions (or lack thereof!) surrounding them. For example, you might say “starting January 1st I am going on a diet!” Or, “on January 1st, I am going to start exercising!” Perhaps every year you say, “I am going to start the year off by eating healthy!”
These are all with the best of intentions, but they are broad, lack the ability to be accurately measured or tracked and are too easily manipulated to suit your life versus you having to make some hard changes and restructure your lifestyle.
This year, instead of pegging down a resolution, ditch that mindset and focus on a lifestyle change. Focus on making sustainable changes in your habits – forming them or breaking them – that you can measure, maintain and repeat. Here are some things to consider:
- Set a goal or a plan to change that is specific
- Make sure you have a way to measure your progress and a gauge for the final outcome. You need to know whether you are on track and whether you have or haven’t met your goal!
- Set up a way to stay accountable. Perhaps you check in regularly with a friend or partner, or you keep track on a calendar.
- Make it time-specific – set a deadline for when you want to reach your goal.
- Break it down and change one thing at a time. If you are looking to “get healthier,” first set a goal surrounding exercise, then around food choices, then around a healthy mindset. Doing these all at once will likely make you discouraged.
- Celebrate the small wins and give yourself positive feedback along the way.
Making small tweaks in the goals you set and the way you set them can lead to a make or break outcome. Be open to taking different approaches to change this year and you will be more likely to get a different (more desirable!) result!
When it comes to making changes and adopting new habits, ask yourself: “is this something I could maintain for the rest of my life?” Drastic, large scale changes, like cutting out entire food groups or going from no exercise to an hour a day, are likely unreasonable and unsustainable. Consider some of the following sustainable changes to help you get started:
- Make a swap – Change your daily consumption of soft drinks to tea instead, or swap to have one night meatless, and power up on veggies for a day.
- Start small – Incorporate exercise in small amounts to begin, such as 15 minutes of walking three times per week.
- Make it attractive – If you are trying to do more of something, make it an attractive thing to do! For example, if you want to drink more water, add lemon to it, or drink it in the form of iced tea. If you want to exercise more, choose an activity you enjoy or people you enjoy being with.
- Don’t forget your brain – Diet and exercise are common targets for change, but it might start in your brain! Giving yourself a cognitive boostcan go a long way in helping you concentrate better, stay focused and ultimately, more effectively achieve your other goals
- More sleep, less stress – Part of cognitive health is getting enough sleep and cutting down on stress. Start by taking your phone out of the bedroom at night and practicing some deep breathing exercises to destress your mind and body.