Often when we think of resolutions, we think of the things we can do, perhaps in the coming year, to better ourselves. According to research from the University of Scranton, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year's Resolutions, and many of those resolutions are focused on self-improvement. New Year's Resolutions that are consistently near the top of the list include: lose weight, get fit, eat health food, drink less alcohol. While all of these resolutions may certainly lead to better health in the New Year, they are notoriously hard to stick with.
According to the same study, about 75 percent of individuals who make resolutions are able to keep them for the first week. However, at the six-month mark, only 46 percent are still on track. This is unfortunate, as many new health habits are most successful when followed for at least six months. And what's worse, at the end of the year, only eight percent of Americans are successful in achieving their resolutions.
Does that mean we shouldn't even bother making a better health resolution for the New Year? Absolutely not. The key to success may be in the approach you take and your determination to stick with it.
The best way to achieve your health goals for the New Year is to develop a detailed plan for how you will succeed. It's great that you want to lose weight, but what will you do to achieve that goal? Without a plan to guide you along the way, there is little likelihood that you will reach your goal. My favorite way to make a plan for healthful behavior change is to develop what are referred to as SMART goals. SMART goals are:
What is it that you want to achieve and what are the specific things you are you going to do to ensure that you are working towards your goal? If your goal is weight loss, how much weight do you want to lose? How do you plan on accomplishing the weight loss? This could include tracking your calories, eating smaller portions, taking the stairs at work, going to the gym to exercise, and the list goes on.
How will you measure your progress toward meeting your goal? For weight loss, this could easily be tracked by measuring weight, or specific body measurements related to weight such as waist circumference. You can also measure your more specific "mini goals" that are helping you reach your big goal: How many calories are you aiming to consume each day? How many times did you take the stairs yesterday? How many minutes did you walk on the treadmill? Measurements are meant to keep you on track and allow you to experience the joy of small, steady accomplishments on the way to your overall goal.