Here we go again. It's another new year, and you know what that means. "New Year's" and "resolution" are about as inseparable as Jack and Jill or salt and pepper. So what's it gonna be this year? Eat less, exercise more, quit smoking, or spend more time with your family?
Easy does it. Before you take the plunge, try rethinking your approach. Instead of making vague, sudden, and difficult-to-keep resolutions, think in terms of healthy lifestyle changes – more of a work in progress.1
Start small, with one goal at a time, and make a solid plan. Remember: small changes really do add up. One way to be more effective is to create SMART goals. These are the elements of SMART goals:
Specific. State exactly what you want to accomplish. Make sure your goal is not hard to understand. Getting fit is not a specific goal. Being able to run a 5K under 30 minutes is. Write down exactly what you plan to do as well as when and how often. Post it where you'll be sure to see it.1
Measurable. If a goal is measurable, can evaluate your progress and know when you've succeeded. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you can check your body mass index (BMI) or see if you can get the zipper up on a smaller pair of pants.
Attainable. Maybe you want to lose 50 pounds by your class reunion this summer. But seriously, now, is this really realistic? Instead, have a conversation with your doctor about safe methods and rates of weight loss. Losing one or two pounds a week might be more reasonable. Or, maybe you'd like to quit smoking cold turkey, but you know that tapering off will make it easier for you. Set yourself up for success by setting goals that are truly attainable.2
Relevant. Is this really a goal you're interested in? Or is it something a family member has foisted upon you? Make sure the steps you're taking will help you meet your specific goal.
Time-bound. It's human nature to put things off. So remember to set specific deadlines. Try setting lots of shorter time-bound goals. This may make it easier to stay on track and reach your final destination.2
You are also more likely to succeed if you are clear about why you want to make a particular change and know how it will benefit you. Also, identify your support system and ask for help when you need it. And come up with rewards for reaching specific goals. All these things can help you stay motivated.
It will also help to create visible cues that remind you that you want to make a change. Maybe that means keeping workout clothes within easy reach. By the same token, remove things that will undercut your will. 2 For example, if ice cream is your weakness, it won't help to know that there's a half-gallon of mint chocolate chip in the freezer with your name on it. But, remember: slip-ups happen. So don't beat yourself up. Just get back on the proverbial horse and keep going.3
Need more ideas about lifestyle changes you can make? Stop by the pharmacy and we can discuss your goals.
1. American Psychological Association: "Making lifestyle changes that last." Available at:http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/lifestyle-changes.aspx. Accessed April 18, 2012.
2. American Council for Exercise: "Reaching Your Goals the SMART Way." Available at:http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=2637. Accessed April 18, 2012.
3. Hungtington Medical Foundation: "Making lifestyle changes that stick." Available at:http://www.huntingtonmedical.com/about-hmf/hmf-newsletter/making-lifestyle-changes-that-stick/. Accessed April 18, 2012.