Are you among the 45% of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions? I usually do, but I admit I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, I’m all about people setting goals to improve their lives (47% of resolutions are self-improvement-related, and 38% are weight-related). Even if the resolutions are not ultimately achieved, every step in the right direction is a win in my book! On the other hand, I know that so many people set New Year’s Resolutions that are unattainable, and then feel defeated when the resolutions are not achieved (only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions each year).(picture source)
Every year, Kevin sets the Resolution that he’ll be able to touch his toes by the end of the year. Every year (so far!), he has failed. Luckily, he doesn’t get too upset with himself about it, but somewhere around February or March, thoughts of reaching his goal (and his toes) just fade away. In my opinion, he doesn’t reach his goal because he doesn’t have a plan to reach the lofty target. Here are my tips for setting a New Year’s Resolution, followed by 7 New Year’s Resolutions that I would recommend:
- Set a resolution that will allow you mini-successes every day, week, or month: In Kevin’s case, he has no milestones before December 31st of the year. Without interim successes to keep him motivated, all he knows for the first 364 days of the year is that he’s not there yet. I prefer resolutions that allow you to give yourself a pat on the back for every day’s achievement, or at least have milestones throughout the year. If he had set his goal to stretch for 5 minutes per day, 5 days per week, he could celebrate small accomplishments along the way.
- Create a method to track your mini-successes: Creating a calendar or spreadsheet that can track your goals every day will help you implement the previous tip – just seeing the sheet in a prominent place every day will help you remember to work towards your goal, and seeing your progress will motivate you. (Think about your resolution today, because I just might have a calendar for you tomorrow to help you track your goals!)
- Set a “SMART” resolution: you may have heard the “SMART” criteria from management guru Peter Drucker. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound are more likely to be achieved. When people resolve to “lose weight,” that is not specific enough to encourage success. If, instead, they were to say “I will lose 2 pounds per month every month this year by going to the gym 3 days per week and adding vegetables to every meal,” they would be much more likely to achieve their goals.
- Set a resolution that is a challenge, but is not too lofty to be unattainable: Most people who say “I want to lose 100 pounds this year” or “I want to go from eating fast food 6 times per week to never eating fast food again” are setting themselves up for failure. (Yes, I know some people achieve this, and I truly think they are amazing!, but most people need more bite-sized goals.)
- Don’t get too bogged down by the numbers: Another reason I prefer resolutions that encourage you to add healthy behaviors (vs. resolutions that are just about losing – or gaining – a certain number of pounds) is that every step in the right direction is a success. If you eat vegetables every day (and improve your health immensely by doing so), who really cares if you lose 8 pounds by the end of the year instead of 10? Setting a resolution that sets you up for success (and improves your health) is far better than setting an arbitrary number target to reach.
- When you set a resolution, commit to it: If you’re going to make a New Year’s Resolution this year, you owe it to yourself to commit to it! There’s no reason to deal with feelings of guilt or defeat due to setting a resolution that you’re not truly committed to achieve. If you have a goal, you need to believe that you can achieve it, and do everything in your power to get there – I believe in you! (picture source)
Healthy Lyons’-Share-Approved New Year’s Resolutions
- Drink 8 glasses of water per day. 8 can be substituted for however many your body needs (see my guidance here). Be sure to track your progress – find a way to track how many glasses you’re drinking per day, and to “check off” the days when you achieve your goal!
- Eat 2 servings of fruits and vegetables with every meal. You could also choose to try for 4 different types of fruits and vegetables every day, or to try a new vegetable every month, or to achieve the recommended 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Any specific target that increases your vegetable consumption is a great resolution!
- Fit in some movement (or stretching) every day. I am not saying you don’t need rest days, or you need to push yourself to exhaustion every day. But even on your busiest days, try for a quick lunchtime walk, 10 minutes of stretching or yoga before bed, or even a quick interval workout (see this post for 7 ideas that you can do from home or in a hotel room)!
- Learn a new type of exercise, or achieve a new fitness goal. My mom just took up “pickleball,” and her excitement proves that working on a new skill can be a great motivation to get active. I’m not suggesting everyone race to their nearest pickleball facility (!), but the point is that trying something new can be good for you. Have you wanted to try a Zumba class, Crossfit, or spinning? Set a resolution that you’ll learn a new activity (or at least go to a certain number of classes!). Or, set a specific goal in a mode of exercise you already practice (with interim steps along the way!). Is there a certain weight you want to be able to deadlift, a certain mile time you’ve been hoping for, or a certain pose in yoga you’ve been dying to achieve? Figure out how you’ll get there this year!
- Reduce added sugars (and/ or artificial sweeteners). This is a lofty and hard-to-measure target, so I recommend you do this in smaller mini-goals. For example, reduce the 2 tsp of sugar in your coffee to 1 tsp, or go for plain yogurt with fruit instead of sweetened, fruit-flavored yogurt. You can see my thoughts on artificial sweeteners here (and I’m happy to announce that I’m on my very last bottle of Powerade Zero – I’ve found a naturally-sweetened, but still low-calorie alternative!)
- Eat at home 4 nights per week, or pack your lunch 2 times per week. Of course, the numbers are arbitrary, so set a goal that works for you. The point is to increase the number of home-cooked meals you prepare … so much better for your wallet and your health!
- Commit to a small, incremental change every month. In January, you may order a side of veggies instead of french fries every time you go out to eat. In February, you may switch from coffee creamer to skim milk. In March, you may add 5 minutes to your daily 30-minute walk. Whatever it is, choose a small change that you can add on every single month.
So tell me in the comments … Will you make a New Year’s Resolution this year? If so, what is it? Have you ever succeeded (or failed) on a New Year’s Resolution – and why? My research was limited to the US for this post … If you’re not from the US, tell me something about New Year’s Resolutions where you live!