How To Set Yourself Up for A Successful (and Healthy) New Year
“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” — Melody Beattie
The start of the new year is a time many of us are inspired to make life changes. The beginning of a new year can seem like a clean slate, a blank canvas to start fresh and change or create new habits or goals. A study found that of nearly two thirds of adults in the United States who made resolutions, made them about health and fitness. They also found that 73% of them gave up and did not meet their goals. Some gave up in six weeks or less! However well-intentioned and motivated we may seem on December 31 and January 1, other research (and my own experience and probably yours too) confirms that by mid-February most resolutions have been abandoned. How can we keep our resolutions, meet these goals in our lives and make this year the most successful yet?
“You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that got you into it.” -Einstein
Shift Your Focus – Replace the negative with the positive. It’s not an obligation, it is an aspiration. It’s not that you should or have to work out, think of it as how lucky you are that you get to work out. How lucky are you that you are healthy enough to move and take care of your health in this way? I don’t have to exercise – I get to exercise to feel better both physically and mentally. It’s not that I can’t eat all those cookies – I’m choosing not too so I feel better physically by choosing something with more nutritional value that won’t leave me with a blood sugar crash and feeling bad in an hour or two. Sometimes it may not feel this way, but even just speaking to yourself in this more positive light can change your mindset.
Find the immediate benefits of the process of the habit you’d like to have and focus on those instead of the negatives. For example, instead of “I have to start exercising” or “I have to lose x number of pounds” reframe that with “I get to go for a walk and enjoy the company of my friend” or “I can listen to this podcast while I’m lifting weights or on the treadmill”. Learning how to enjoy the process of exercise can make it a more pleasurable experience which will then boost the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in your brain which make you feel good. That means it is more likely to become a habit since it is more likely we will do things that are pleasurable.
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” — J.P. Morgan
Make An Attainable Goal – A resolution to workout everyday sounds good in theory but is not something that would be easy to stick with and might not even be a good idea if you are just starting out. If exercising isn’t part of your life right now, committing to doing it every day might be too much. Maybe working out three times a week is a good place to start.
“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” — Alan Cohen
Progress not Perfection – Say you set the goal of working out three times a week and then you miss a week because you are sick. That doesn’t mean all is lost! Jump back to your schedule of exercising three times a week as soon as you are well. Life will always throw curveballs at us to derail our best laid plans, but with health and fitness you can adjust and get right back on track. It’s about consistency over the long term rather than a perfect record.
“Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but, because of lack of commitment.” – Vince Lombardi
Make a Plan – Once you have determined your goal or resolution, lay out the concrete steps to reach that goal. If the steps still seem big, continue to break them down and do small bits at a time. Celebrate after completing each step along the way! Make sure you have something you are doing, if not on a daily basis, at least a few times a week that is in support of your goal. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder. Commit to it and make the time. A personal trainer can help you put together a personalized plan for fitness goals if you aren’t sure where to start.
There is no one giant step that does it, it’s a lot of little steps. – Peter A. Cohen
Find an Accountability Partner – Starting something new can be difficult, especially if you are on your own. Ask a friend or family member to be a workout partner. Knowing someone is counting on you, and waiting for you, can be a huge motivator to get to the gym. Also working out with someone else can make it more fun, which makes it more likely you will enjoy the experience and make it a long-term habit. Another idea, share your fitness tracker statistics with friends that have the same tracker and keep each other motivated to reach your goals each day. Just knowing they can see what you’ve done that day (or haven’t done) can be the push that many people need.
Your accountability partner doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who exercises with you. Just having someone you can talk with who knows what you are aiming for, respects your struggle, and wants to help you reach your goal can be the difference between staying on your path or veering off when things get tough. Others find that hiring a personal trainer is a great way to stay accountable to their workouts. Knowing that you have paid for a session and the trainer has blocked out time for you makes it difficult to cancel.
“There is always an opportunity to start again and again, if the old ways are not working last year, look for better ways of doing it in the new year and start again afresh.” — Bamigboye Olurotimi
A new year is a great time to embrace change, challenges, and new healthier habits. We each have the power to affect our own health and wellness. Whether you make a health or fitness resolution or a goal or just want to be a little healthier, you have it within you to make that change. It doesn’t need to be drastic or perfect. Plan the small steps to take to get where you want to be and don’t stop there. Keep exploring, learning, and discovering what type of workouts and what nutrition works for you and your body and what makes you feel your best.
The result is that the more you exercise and eat healthfully, the better you will feel, which could lead to long-term behavior change which then creates a healthier life and many successful years ahead!