January 1st is always a natural time for people to start fresh. But psychologists say that many resolutions are broken before the day is over. The fact that we seem to make the same resolutions every year suggests that few of them stick. But even if you broke last year's (or every year's) resolutions, this year can be different. The first step is to pick your resolutions very carefully.
Make Your Resolutions as Specific as Possible
Vague resolutions like "eat better" or "exercise more" are hard to quantify and, therefore, easy to fudge - and eventually forget. You'll have a much better chance of succeeding with a specific, measurable goal such as "I will take the dog for a one mile walk before dinner every night."
Choose a Goal that is Realistic but Meaningful
Don't underestimate the power of small changes-especially when you stick with them. Grandiose plans to radically overhaul your diet on January 1st are normally doomed to failure. You'll get a lot more mileage out of choosing a couple of small but meaningful changes that you can stick to until they've become habits. For example, instead of putting milk in your coffee, switch to half and half. (That one small change can save 18,250 calories, or the equivalent of five pounds, over a year's time.)
It's easier to eliminate a bad habit when you replace it with a better one. So, if your resolution involves "no more candy bars at work," make "pack a healthy snack to take to work every day" part of the resolution.
What Are Some Good Diet Resolutions?
Here are just a few ideas for small changes that can make a big difference in your health:
- Eat at least two servings of vegetables before 3 p.m. each day
- Buy a pedometer and start tracking your steps. Try to work up to 10,000 steps a day.
- Eat fish at least once every week
- Make the TV room a "no food zone"
- Switch to a higher fiber cereal
- Pack your own lunch at least twice a week
4 Secrets to Keeping Your Resolution
Once you've settled on one or two good resolutions, here are four strategies that can help you turn them into reality:
1. Keep a log--especially at the beginning. When you are trying to change habitual patterns, it can be very enlightening and helpful to keep a log of your daily activities. If you are trying to cut down on salt, keep track of how much you take in. If you want to get into the habit of exercising regularly, log your daily mileage or calories burned. If you have a smartphone, there are all kinds of apps that make this fun and easy. If you don't, you'll find of lots of handy tools on the web; a pad and pencil work great, too.
2. Stay focused on your actions, not your progress. According to researchers at Yale University, the trick to sticking to your resolutions is to stay focused on your commitment to a certain course of action (like eating healthier, spending less, or exercising more) and to not pay too much attention to your results or progress toward a specific goal.
3. Find a support network. Research shows that support and encouragement from others with the same goals is a big help. Family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are potential support networks.
4. Go on the record. To give your resolution a little extra staying power, share it with others. There's something about making your resolution public that makes it just a little harder to abandon.
Here's to making 2011 your healthiest, happiest and most productive year ever!
This information is adapted from "4 Secrets to Keeping Your New Year's Resolution" by Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N.