Have you made New Year’s resolutions in years past and had trouble reaching your goals? About half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but research suggests only 8% keep them.
Mindy Boccio has ideas on how you can make better resolutions — and stick to them. As a senior consultant with Kaiser Permanente Health Education, Boccio trains physicians, nurses, and wellness coaches on how to help their patients make healthy changes. She offered suggestions based on research around behavior change.
What advice do you have for people making New Year’s resolutions?
I see a resolution as simply the decision to make a change in your life. Three suggestions come to mind:
- Get clear on your why. Ask yourself how this change will benefit your life and support your values. For example, the deeper reason for deciding to quit smoking may be that you want to be a healthy role model for your children. Understanding that can boost your motivation initially and help keep you on track when you hit the inevitable rough patch.
- Be specific about the change you want to make. We know from research that the more specific you are about the change, the better. If your resolution is to exercise more regularly, try fitting in 15 minutes of walking 3 times a week. It’s helpful to start with something achievable so you don’t feel overwhelmed. You can increase your goal later.
- Ask for help. Getting support from family and friends has been shown to help us make lasting change. It’s also good to partner with someone who’s making the same behavior change. That creates accountability, and the camaraderie helps too.
How do you stay on track?
Research supports that tracking your progress helps you achieve your goals. Even if things aren’t going perfectly, tracking your progress can be viewed as helpful feedback for making adjustments instead of abandoning ship. Plus, when you’re logging your progress daily, it keeps the goal on your mind.
It doesn’t matter how you track your progress. Some people keep it simple and mark the days they exercise on a calendar. Others like to use technology to track exactly how many steps they take each day.
What about when the going gets tough?
When you’re faced with a dilemma around keeping a resolution, slowing down can help. Take a moment and recognize that you may have more choices than you think.
If your New Year’s resolution is to cut back on sweets because you’d like to lose weight, and then someone offers you a piece of cake, your immediate thought might be, “I want that delicious cake!” You could eat the cake and have the immediate gratification. You could also step away for a few minutes to see if the craving for the cake goes away. Or you could decide to have a small piece and do more walking that day to burn the additional calories.
If you pause, consider your choices, and remember your why (the deeper reasons for making a change), you can then make a more deliberate decision. You’ll feel good about the choice, and you’re more likely to repeat the mindful approach.
If you slip up, resist being overly critical of yourself. Negative self-talk can quickly spiral out of control and undermine your motivation. Consider talking to yourself like a friend would. Acknowledge the setback and what you learned, then focus on getting back on track.
As a Kaiser Permanente Washington member, you have access to a variety of programs and resources to help you keep those healthy-living resolutions for the long haul. Talk to your personal physician about your goals and challenges. Quit for Life offers one-on-one support to beat urges, manage withdrawal symptoms, and switch up your habits so you can enjoy life tobacco-free. Additional wellness tools are available at kp.org/wa.
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