You feel it: It’s your year to (finally!) keep those New Year’s resolutions.
It’s a hard truth, but if you’re approaching your resolutions the same way you always have, you just might be setting yourself up for failure. According to recent estimates, about 40 to 50 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions every year, but only eight percent (ouch!) are actually successful at keeping them.
So how should you plan for success? According to Dr. Vanessa Spearman, an internist with Augusta University Health, these easy hacks can help turn that resolution into a habit that you can actually keep.
Hack that resolution
Instead of saying: I want to lose weight.
Say this: I’m going to reduce my portion sizes/drink just water and exercise five times a week.
Just saying that you want to lose weight is too general, Spearman said. As a result, “people often feel they need to make a drastic change,” she said, “but weight loss is best viewed as more of a lifestyle change with specific goals that are met gradually.”
It’s fine to figure out a certain weight number that you want to get to, but make your resolution more about how you’re going to get there. We all know the drill: the calories we eat must be less than the calories we burn off in exercise in order for us to lose weight.
“It’s OK to eat that candy bar,” said Spearman, “but you must subtract those from your total daily calories to achieve your weight goal. It’s all about balance.”
Reducing portion sizes is one easy way to help control your calories. Another is to swap in water instead of your usual sugary beverage (hello, a can of Coke has 150 calories – swap out three of those in one day and, presto, you’ve saved 450 calories!).
Add in the American Heart Association recommendations for exercise (30 minutes, five times a week), and that weight loss number suddenly seems a lot easier to achieve.
Instead of saying: I’m going to quit smoking.
Say this: This is my quit date.
Going cold turkey isn’t necessarily the best way to kick the nicotine habit, Spearman said. By setting a quit date, you give yourself time to do it right. Start by informing everyone in your circle of your quit date so that they can help champion you. Next, clean your home, car or workspace to remove any smells of smoke or other triggers. Third, talk to your physician about nicotine replacement options or medications.
Then, as you approach your quit date, slowly reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke. So, if you typically smoke an entire pack of 20 cigarettes in one day, start by smoking only one an hour while you’re awake, then one every couple of hours, and so on.
Instead of saying: I’m going to do something new in my life (whether it’s learning a new skill or traveling someplace new).
Say this: I’m putting a date for this (whether it’s a class or a vacation) on my calendar.
It’s easy to let the busyness of our day-to-day lives crowd out time for doing something new and different, but the best way to keep this resolution is to go ahead and schedule whatever it is you want to do. You can also ask a friend or loved one to join you to help you keep the appointment. Here’s the clincher: Go ahead and pay for it, too.
Instead of saying: I’m going to save more money.
Say this: I will automatically put X amount from my paycheck every month into savings.
The adage “out of sight, out of mind” holds true. Start with your savings goal: Perhaps you want to save for retirement, a new car or a new home. Then, dedicate a specific savings account for this, and have a specific amount automatically go from your paycheck to the bank every month. Don’t have enough to save right now? Start by examining your expenses, and see what you can cut. Cable or smartphone plans and dining out are all little luxuries that you can modify to help you meet your savings goal.
Instead of saying: I’m going to reduce my stress.
Say this: I’m going to just say no to myself – and not feel guilty about it.
One huge point of stress for all of us is the items we all feel we “have” to do. Why do we feel this way? If you think about it, all too often, we’re putting this burden on ourselves. So, just say no sometimes, and let go of any guilt for having done so.
“You have to recognize your own abilities and your limitations,” said Spearman. “Put a priority on those things that you want to do and make you feel good, whether that’s sleeping eight hours a night, spending more time with family or going for a run.”
Then schedule it.
“Keeping a schedule sounds anti-relaxing,” Spearman acknowledged, “but you need to schedule time for yourself.”
Taking care of yourself just helps make life better, which after all is the entire point of making – and keeping – a New Year’s resolution.