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How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

By:
Lili Hanft, with The Taste For Life Staff

What makes a New Year's resolution stick? Those Nike commercials made it sound so simple: Just do it. But when it comes to acting on our healthy resolutions, lots of us just... don't.

Some of the most popular goals--getting fit, managing stress, and saving money--are great ideas, but they're as vague as advertising slogans. Maybe that's why 30 percent of people who make a January 1 resolution scale back by mid-month, and most give up by June.

Is the solution to avoid setting goals for the year ahead? Not when the choices we make today have such a profound impact on our wellness and longevity. (Studies show that maintaining healthy habits can reduce the risk of chronic diseases by up to 80 percent!)

Instead, we asked the experts for their tips on turning a hopeful resolution into a healthy habit--for life.

Think of Resolutions as Self-Care

Before you begin setting resolutions, start by rethinking your terminology.

Life coach and author Nancy Hovde suggests replacing the phrase "new resolution" with "self-care action" when trying to establish a permanent habit.

"Self-care actions are healthy for your overall well-being," she says.

Then, work from a strong foundation, advises award-winning cyclist and trainer Kathryn Wilder, PhD. "Answer these questions: Why do you want to make this change? How will it improve your life? Your energy? Your family life? How you perceive the world?"

Knowing your reasons and inspirations--and revisiting them--is crucial in making a lasting change.

Don't become overwhelmed when setting healthy goals for yourself. Start small by focusing on one change at a time. Then let this change become habit.

Say that you want to better your health by committing to a new supplement routine.

"Use the New Year as a motivational boost to sit down with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner to help you customize your program to your specific health and wellness goals," suggests Duffy MacKay, ND, at the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

Then pick a strategy that helps you follow-through by taking the supplements each day. "Keeping supplements in an easily accessible place, like on the kitchen counter, can help increase your chances of remembering to take them daily," says Dr. MacKay. Make your goal a 30-day challenge. Three to four weeks is all that's needed to help a habit become automatic.

17 Steps to Crushing Your Resolutions

Need some specific and tactical resolution tips? Try these strategies:

  1. Make Goals Attainable

    Consult with your doctor or a personal trainer to set realistic goals. The more successful you are with your fitness program, the more you'll want to stay with it. Trainer and sports psychologist Kathryn Wilder, PhD, suggests setting S.M.A.R.T. goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.

  2. Get a Buddy

    Rather than going it alone, consider teaming up with a friend who is also interested in getting fit. You can motivate each other. On days when you aren't feeling enthusiastic, knowing your buddy is expecting you at the gym or in the park can help keep you accountable.

  3. Think Outside the Gym

    It isn't necessary to work out in a gym to get fit, and you may find that other forms of activity are better suited to your preferences, budget, and schedule. Whether you try dancing, take to the hills for a hike, zen out with an online yoga video, or simply get up from your desk and move around more often, thinking outside the gym can be a great way to counter the exercise doldrums.

  4. Join a Group

    Look for Meetups in your area that focus on physical activity (tennis, golfing, etc.), or sign up for a membership at your local yoga studio or gym. The group atmosphere and social interaction may well be what it takes to keep you coming back.

  5. Commit to Your Goals in Public

    Aside from finding a buddy or joining a group, you could join a gym, make healthy selections at restaurants, or share your trials and successes with friends and family. According to one study, women were 10 percent more likely to achieve success when they made their goals public, garnered support from their community, and received encouragement to persist in spite of challenges.

  6. Schedule Your Workouts

    Treat your workout just as you would an important meeting on your calendar. Plan ahead and lay out your workout gear in advance to make keeping your exercise appointment easier.

  7. Mix Up Your Routine

    If your exercise regime usually consists of cardio, switch things up and try weight training. Adding variety to your workouts staves off boredom and promotes overall fitness.

  8. Get Inspired

    Follow social media accounts and blogs that inspire you to pursue health and fitness. Seeing the success of others will encourage you to continue on your fitness journey.

  9. Leverage Technology

    Nifty technological tools can help you stick to your fitness goals. These apps and fitness trackers (such as the popular Fitbit) enable you to track your progress, and you can further increase your motivation by competing with friends and family to see who can take the most steps in a day.

  10. Track Your Progress

    Record quantifiable measurements of your progress, such as reps completed or steps walked. One study found that exercise app users were more likely to exercise in their leisure time than those who did not track their progress.

  11. Hold Yourself Accountable in Measurable Ways

    Record quantifiable measurements of your progress, such as reps completed or steps walked. One study found that exercise app users were more likely to exercise in their leisure time than those who did not track their progress.

  12. Dial in Your Diet

    If your interest in fitness wanes, try adding new, healthful foods to your meals. As you eat more nutritious food (and crowd out the junk), you will be able to avoid the lethargy caused by unstable blood sugar and have more energy for your workout.

  13. Refocus on Your "Why"

    Do you want to have more energy to play with your kids? Feel more confident in your clothes? Be able to explore the great outdoors? Whatever your goal, remembering why you made the commitment to exercise will motivate you to stay the course.

  14. Envision Your Future Self

    Imagine feeling strong, lean, and comfortable in your body. Research shows that seeing con-tinuity between your present and future self decreases procrastination and improves performance.

  15. Anticipate Setbacks

    This may seem counterintuitive, but realizing that you will not achieve perfection prevents an all-or-nothing mentality. Missing a few workouts doesn't have to lead to throwing in the towel.

  16. Reassess Your Goals

    Periodically take stock of your progress. As you achieve your fitness goals, set new ones. If you realize some goals were unrealistic, modify them.

  17. Shift Your Mindset

    Rather than seeing exercise as something you do, start seeing it as a part of your identity: You are the kind of person who loves to exercise. This shift in mindset can take getting more exercise from a simple New Year's resolution to a permanent part of your life.

When The Going Gets Tough

If things aren't going as you hoped, don't give up. "Let go of all-or-nothing thinking, and change your mindset or philosophy to be more accepting," says Dr. Wilder. "A small misstep is not a catastrophic failure."

To keep it from happening again, plan what you'll do differently. Along the way, be mindful of the journey.

"Sometimes we tend to focus too much on all the details of our goal," says Hovde. "When we choose instead to focus on how we want to feel when we've reached our goal, we have a much greater chance of not only reaching the goal but also enjoying the process."

Remember: Change takes time. And sticking with your health and fitness goals isn't always easy.

Sources

"Experiencing the Temporally Extended Self: Initial Support for the Role of Affective States, Vivid Mental Imagery, and Future Self-Continuity in the Prediction of Academic Procrastination" by E.C. Blouin-Hudon and T.A. Pychyl, Elsevier, www.ScienceDirect.com, 11/15

"How 9 Health Experts Stick to Their Resolutions" by Locke Hughes, www.WebMD.com

"How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions--Five Tips from a Health Psychologist" by Fuschia Sirois, www.Newsweek.com, 1/20/17

"Making Your New Year's Resolution Stick," American Psychological Association, www.APA.org

"Mobile Exercise Apps and Increased Leisure Time Exercise Activity: A Moderated Mediation Analysis of the Role of Self-Efficacy and Barriers" by L. Litman et al., Journal of Medical Internet Research, 8/14/15