During January, many of us take a look back at the year we just finished and think about what we’d like to do in the new year. Often, these resolutions are related to health, diet, and fitness: to get in shape, run a 5K, lose weight, take a multivitamin daily. After the excess of the holidays, a wellness reset seems like a great idea at the beginning of the year.
But what can you do to make sure those resolutions last not just for all of January, but throughout 2015 and beyond? Here are six tips for turning those resolutions into lifestyle changes that could see you leaving 2015 in better health than you started it.
The vaguer your goal is, the harder it will be to measure and act on. A resolution like “Lose weight” doesn’t give you much to act on. Instead, be specific: “Lose 30 pounds” gives you a goal to work towards and a way to see that you’re progressing towards it. Research shows that setting very specific goals leads to higher performance, even if the goals are difficult, when compared to vague goals that are non-quantitative.
Break It Down
Now that you’ve got a specific goal, break it into smaller, actionable steps. Let’s say you want to run a 5K for the first time in 2015–if you’re a new runner, you need to do more than just show up on race day with your shoes on. So set a smaller goal like “Run three times per week” or “Complete the Couch-to-5K program.” Doing this will give you intermediate success points on the way to your overall goal, which both makes the big accomplishment more manageable and keeps you motivated.
Sure, it would be great to lose weight and start eating five servings of veggies per day and get a six pack–but if you overload yourself with goals and try to make too many changes at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or to burn out early. Pick one goal–the one that seems the most pressing, or that matters the most to you–and work towards that one. There’s nothing saying that you can’t make a mid-year resolution if you get the first one out of the way early!
Talk About Your Goal
Make your goal public! Sharing your plans with friends and family is a natural thing to do, especially when you’re excited about them, but it could also make it more likely that you actually hit that milestone. A study on workplace social support found that weak support can lead to increases in biological indicators of anxiety and stress–having people around us to support our efforts makes us feel better. And telling a few trusted people you’re going to swim that race or change up your diet creates accountability and makes the goal seem more real. Bonus: you’ll have people to celebrate with you at the finish line.
Take Advantage of Existing Habits
Do you put in contact lenses every morning? Place your supplements and a glass for water right beside your lens case, so you’re reminded every morning to take them. Or if you go to a gym near your office, put your workout clothing and shoes beside your work bag so you remember to take them with you. Taking advantage of your daily routine, or habits you’ve already integrated into your life, is a great way to establish new ones.
Track Your Progress
Quantifying your goals is a good way to both keep yourself honest–it’s less appealing to eat that chocolate bar if you know you have to write it in your fitness diary–and track your progress. My Fitness Pal has a huge food database and a smartphone app, making it easy to record your food and exercise and track weight loss. And an ever-increasing slate of tracking devices like those by Fitbit and Nike+ make it easier by measuring every step you take or recording the distance and speed of your runs. For daily goals, comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break The Chain” method is effective–really, we’re serious!
Achieving success against your resolutions is not easy. The six tips above can help you choose the right goals and stick with them. Here is to your great health in 2015.