What’s not to love about new beginnings? The New Year brings with it bright ambitions and the desire for self-improvement—and the resolutions we make provide an active way to make those dreams a reality.
But, the truth is, they don’t always work. According to John Norcross, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton and author of the bookChangeology, “The rah-rah excitement about a resolution works for only a week or two.”
And according to the American Psychological Association, the issue really has to do with willpower and knowing your personal limits when it comes temptations. Really, to make any habit stick, you have to make the task a regular part of your daily life for at least 66 days.
While that sounds like a lot, it is really just two months in a long lifetime that could benefit greatly from your new lifestyle modifications. In that spirit, here are some tips for how to make the most of your health and wellness resolutions—for the long haul.
Getting in shape
Losing weight is a decent goal, but it's pretty vague, isn't it? It's not easily measurable or well-defined. How much weight? What’s the time frame? How will the weight come off? Setting SMART goals, though, can help to actually achieve them. This means having resolutions that are:
- Specific, or knowing exactly what the goal is
- Measurable, by tracking progress and taking traceable steps
- Attainable, by setting goals that can be reached physically, mentally, financially, etc.
- Realistic, or not pursuing goals that can never be reached (like losing 50 pounds in one week)
- Timely, as in giving the resolution a deadline
That would mean to say, the more detail that goes into your resolution, the clearer it (and the finish line) becomes. Knowing exactly what steps are needed to accomplish a goal is just as necessary to reach it than just simply having a goal itself.
So, our advice is to ditch the idea of just losing weight, and get more specific. Try focusing instead on concrete changes you can make to diet and exercise—like committing to a workout routine several times a week, and choosing healthy food options at least for breakfast and dinner—and let weight loss simply be the pleasant side effect.
For example, start with a plan to work out three to four times per week. It doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out routine at the gym (unless trips to the gym motivate you and you want to push yourself).
In fact, this one workout delivers multiple benefits in just a few minutes with four moves to tighten the glutes, get the heart pumping, increase power in the arms and core, and get powerful stretching to make you more flexible.
Another option is this quick ab workout, which can also strengthen the core. Core exercises are good for the entire body, and can lead to reduced back pain, improved balance and stability, and better posture.
Making the choice to be more active is much more tangible than simply deciding to lose weight. And with a little time and consistency, exercise will lead to weight loss and better fitness overall, making this resolution a win-win.
After all those holiday indulgences, you might be feeling a bit guilty. But you can use the New Year as your clean slate to kickstart a year of healthy choices.
More fruits and veggies
Incorporating more fruits and veggies into every meal leads to better hydration and overall health. Plus, it will offer your system more fiber, which will keep digestion running smoothly.
Fresh produce also contains less calories (so you can enjoy without worrying about packing on the pounds) and more nutrients, like essential vitamins and minerals that have been known to promote well-being and reduce the risk of serious disease.
Make a goal to have at least two cups of fruit or veggies every day. Need some inspiration? Here are some ideas for how you can increase your intake:
- For snacktime, an apple or celery always tastes great with a dollop of nut butter
- Make your own trail mix with dried fruit such as cranberries, apple slices, and apricots, along with the usual nuts and coconut chips
- Mask them in your favorite desserts—like this vegan cake that has frosting made from avocado
- Make crisp veggie chips, like these kale chips
Switch to better-for-you carbs
Yes, you can embrace carbs. Instead of cutting them out in the name of health, like so many diets have propositioned over the years, you can enjoy starches—as long as you are choosing the right kinds.
You’ll want to reach for good carbs that are full of fiber (like beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). These types of carbohydrates are termed “complex” because they are absorbed into the body more slowly, so they won’t spike blood sugar like more “simple,” processed items. And doing so will only lead to increased energy, lower risk of obesity, and more control over weight loss.
Here are some ideas for good carbs for bad carbs swamps:
- Brown rice instead of white rice or even cauliflower rice
- Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
- Ancient grain pasta instead of traditional pasta
- Coconut wraps instead of wheat wraps
- Cauliflower pizza crust instead of wheat pizza crust
Going to the doctor
This is an incredibly good resolution to make for your health. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually recommends setting up your doctor appointments right at the turn of the New Year. One, so you don’t forget. But two, so you can get a regular status update on how your body is doing and establish any treatment plans needed right from the get-go. It also gives some guidance on other necessary appointments, like getting vaccination boosters.
Spoil the mind
Getting more exercise and eating better are great options for the body, but don't let the brain get bored in the New Year. Consider making time for these mental goals, too.
It's time to do away with the idea that taking time to relax is somehow selfish. Mental health is just as important to a person’s overall well-being as physical fitness. People who tend to their own needs have better mental health that can manifest in these positive outcomes:
- Handling stress better
- Experiencing fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Having a more positive self-image
Here’s how to start:
- Find the time. Set aside time each day for something small like a 20-minute walk or reading before bed; and once a week, plan to do something a little bit more like taking a crafting lesson, attending a yoga session, or going to the spa.
- Invest in some good aromatic products. Aromatherapy can do wonders to calm the mind and lull the body into a relaxed state. Everything from lip balms to body lotions and essential oil diffusers can do the trick; even herbal tea has its own mild sedative effects.
- Meditate. Find a good time of day to practice self reflection. For a half-hour, close your eyes and focus on your thoughts and slowly start to turn them into positive statements. While you can totally do so on your own (check out our beginner’s guide!), there are also guided meditations you can try to really get into a deep think. You can even try doing so while in the bath with more of the aromatic products that let you also soak away any negative energy stored up in your body, too.
The point is to find something enjoyable that refuels the mental batteries. Feeling good is the first step to committing to any New Year’s resolutions—without positivity and mental health to get the ball rolling, exercise and eating right might seem more daunting. And that makes it all the more likely that the habits will stick.
New Year’s resolutions are a great way to start over, but they need to be healthy, attainable, and enjoyable if they’re going to survive past February. Along with making SMART resolutions, make success inevitable by taking baby steps and not taking on too many changes at once. Focusing on one change at a time increases the chance of successfully completing each goal.
Resolutions should also be flexible and allow for unexpected changes. Giving goals room to grow and evolve helps keep frustration at bay if they aren’t achieved quickly enough, or if something happens to stall progress. Stick to your plan as best as you can, and get ready for a great year ahead!