How to Make Your Resolutions Last: Creating a New Healthier Lifestyle for Good!
Did you make any resolutions this year? We are a few months into the new year and research shows that most people who made a New Year’s resolution have already abandoned their goal. Making lasting change is hard, so the fact that most resolutions don’t come to fruition is not a surprise. How can we make that resolution that we felt so strongly about on January first become a part of our lives? Breaking down our resolution into new habits might be the key. Motivation can be fleeting but habits are harder to break. Specifically talking about health and fitness, how do we create lasting good habits as part of a healthier lifestyle for good, not just the first two weeks of January?
There isn’t just one way to achieve your goals or create new habits. It may take some trial and error of what tactics work for you. That means it won’t be an easy road, or necessarily a straight road, to your goal or making those habits part of your lifestyle. There will be lots of detours and twists and turns, but if you keep moving ahead and trying new things to find what is best for you, you will get to your destination! Here are a few things to try to see if they will help you reach your goals, create new habits, and keep the results you want.
Reflect - Look back at why you made your resolution in the first place. Why did you want to achieve this goal? What would be the benefit? What is it that you are not happy with now that the resolution would change? If you resolved to start exercising and eating healthier, why did you want to make this change? Did you want to feel better and not lose your breath going up stairs? Did you want to reduce your blood pressure or A1C? Whatever your reason, does it still resonate with you? Dig down deep to find what you truly want out of your resolution. If it is still something you want to work on, reevaluate how you will achieve the goal.
Reevaluate - Maybe your resolution was too lofty or too vague. Now is a good time to change it or make it more specific or even dial it back if need be. For example, if the resolution was to exercise every day but you weren’t exercising at all before, that was probably too big of a goal to start. Working out two or three days a week might be a better starting place and easier to stick with.
There are many ways to exercise and there isn’t a right way for everyone since everyone is different. Maybe your exercise resolution isn’t sticking because it isn’t a good fit for you. Look at what you have tried and evaluate what didn’t work about it. For example, did you resolve to start working out each morning before work, but you aren’t a morning person, and your mornings are already hectic? Then maybe exercising in the evening would be a better time for you. Don’t be afraid to switch up your methods to get to the result you want if one way isn’t working.
Convenience – We are much more likely to do something if it is convenient. Having a hard time getting to the gym? Identify the problem. How could it be easier for you to keep up the habit of exercise? Is your gym too far away from your home or work? Maybe they have a different location. Is it too difficult to remember to take your gym bag with you when you go to work? Keep it packed with the necessities, put in clean gym clothes as soon as you take dirty clothes out of it and then immediately put it in your car, so your bag is in there for the next trip to the gym. By identifying the problem, you can determine a potential solution. Make it as easy as possible to do the thing you want to do instead of the thing you are trying not to do. It won’t always be completely convenient but making easier for you will make you more likely to stick with it.
Start with Small Habits to Build Bigger Lifestyle Changes – Small positive changes are better than no changes! Plus, they can serve as stepping-stones to safely progress to doing more. For example, if you are just starting or getting back to an exercise routine, committing to 10-minute workouts could be a great place to start. It might not sound like much at first, but research shows that every minute of exercise is beneficial, and it will probably eventually lead to more time exercising because it will help to establish your exercise habit. Overwhelmed with the thought of trying to eat healthier? Just cutting out one thing or cutting back on one thing is a great place to start. For example, if you are drinking pop (or soda), either eliminating it all together or cutting back on it can make a difference even without making any other changes to what you are consuming and will hopefully lead to more changes down the road.
Enlist Help – Accountability can be a big motivator for many to keep up good habits. As a personal trainer, I provide accountability for my training clients. They have a scheduled time to meet with me and I will keep in touch with them to ensure they are sticking to our workout plan even when they aren’t meeting with me. Just knowing that someone is counting on you to show up, and that they are there to encourage you, can be a big factor in keeping up with a desired habit. This doesn’t have to be a trainer it can be with a friend or family member that is doing the activity with you or someone who you check in with each day or weekly to report your actions that you planned to do.
Stack Your New Habit with An Existing Habit – Habit stacking or pairing the new activity you want to do with something you already have a habit of doing is a popular way to start a new habit. For example, say you want to start walking in the evening after work. If you are already in the habit of watching your favorite tv show or reading a book around that time, start doing that while you walk on the treadmill or walk outside and listen to a podcast or audio book. I’ve heard of people who love to watch reality shows but only do so if they are on the treadmill or on an exercise bike or elliptical. Or say you want to start taking vitamins every day but just can’t get into the routine. If you have a habit of drinking coffee in the morning, you might try to stack your desired vitamin habit with your existing coffee habit by placing your vitamins and a glass of water right next to your coffee pot and mug. The more you do the two things together, the more automatic it will become. The new habit is just an add on to something you already do anyway, and the existing habit will serve as a cue to do the new behavior you are trying to adopt.
Track Your Progress – The adage “you manage what you measure” rings true for many. Tracking your fitness can be a good way to stick with a healthier habit. Some might find it helpful to write in a journal after each workout about what they did and how they felt. Looking back at what you did and how it felt 6 weeks ago can help you see how far you have progressed and be a motivator to keep going. Keeping a calendar or using a don’t break the chain habit tracker can be motivating as well. Once you see your streak of keeping up your new habit, you won’t want to break it! Or if you prefer data, use a fitness tracker to track your workouts, steps, or other health related metrics. (Read more about this in my post about fitness trackers.).
Deciding on a goal or resolution is easy but achieving them is difficult. Give yourself grace when you slip up and go back to old habits. Understand that it is not all or nothing when it comes to health and fitness. Have strategies in mind to help get you back to the healthy habits you are striving to keep and reevaluate when things aren’t working. Create new habits to make lasting changes until what was once a resolution is now a habit for life!