It’s a common tradition around the world to make a New Year’s resolution—a promise that you’ll change something for the better with the fresh calendar start you’re given. While many of us approach this concept with excitement and optimism, our feelings toward commitment seem to change as the year goes on. According to a 2014 study conducted in Australia, we don’t set ourselves up for success to stick with our resolutions. 35% of participants interviewed found that their goals were pretty unrealistic from the start and nearly just as many people failed to keep track of their progress. Almost 25% of those in the study completely forgot about their resolutions altogether!
Don’t let this data get you down on your own objectives—you can realistically stick to your goals and accomplish them with a few sturdy guidelines. After all, you didn’t decide on your New Year’s resolutions lightly. In many cases, you’ve promised yourself to improve your diet, exercise, or overall well-being in a variety of ways. These desires for change are important to living a long and happy life, so let’s uncover some of the best ways to actually stay on track with your resolutions in the new year.
Start With A Plan
We’re already into the start of the year, but it’s never too late to put some deep thought into your current resolutions, or at the very least, plan way ahead for 2020. Among the top 2019 New Year’s resolutions, as gathered by Inc., diet and exercise are by far the most popular. It’s great to have intentions for improving this part of your life, but without outlining actionable steps, it’s going to be difficult sticking to your guns.
Setting out for a new diet, or simply eating healthier, is a great example of a plan that absolutely needs proper planning in order to succeed. Studies show that most diets fail within 7 days due to a number of reasons like social pressure, emotional eating, and simply giving in to cravings when they arise. People might incorporate a variety of techniques to combat these issues, but setting processes in place from the get-go is the best step toward success.
Depending on your goals for eating better or exercising, your methods of planning may differ. Some rely on a strict schedule that outlines meal times or specific exercises to do at the gym, while others make more vague plans like working out three times per week. However you go about it, make sure there’s a concrete plan in place for the days when you feel like throwing in the towel.
Analyze Your Resolution
Sometimes, on December 31st as the ball is about to drop, we quickly come up with an off-the-cuff resolution so we have something to say when asked about it by our friends and family. While these goals can certainly be a true desire of ours, there’s often an added element of social pressure as well. Taking the time to really analyze your resolution is another way to ensure you progress and stick to your set goals. Make sure you’re really doing it for yourself and your life, rather than picking one based on those around you.
Another helpful strategy is creating a pros and cons list that addresses your specific goal. Ask yourself how making this change would benefit your life both now and in the long run, and take time to think about how keeping this commitment could potentially negatively impact your life, too. The goal of getting in shape might come with an expensive gym membership, or maybe eating better could put a strain on your social life, so it’s important to be honest with yourself when making the list. The more honest you are, the more realistic and achievable your resolutions will be.
Rather than dwelling on the negatives and talking yourself out of taking any action, let your pros column act as an encouraging reminder when you feel like quitting. On the days when you want to break your resolution, reflect on the ways in which this new action will improve your happiness and life quality.
Be Reasonable with Yourself
One of the most difficult aspects of keeping a New Year’s resolution is timing. As we begin a new year, we get a chance at a fresh start (or at least it feels that way). It’s this feeling that often gives us the inspiration to aim for our goals, no matter how lofty they might feel. However, the concept of sticking to a new behavior for 365 days is difficult for almost anyone, considering our already busy schedules and life commitments.
Let’s fast forward to July of this year and imagine that you’ve committed to eating less junk food during 2019. So far, you’ve done a great job sticking to your resolution, but it’s your birthday in a few weeks and you just know that friends and family will want to take you out for dessert. Not wanting to miss out on the occasion, you eat ice cream to your heart’s content and wake up the next day feeling like you’ve blown it.
This scenario happens fairly often, and it’s one of the more common reasons that people end up quitting their New Year’s resolution. Instead of stopping altogether because you didn’t meet your goal every single day, experts recommend using a more gentle mindset. Acknowledge that you had a less than ideal day as it pertains to your goal and recommit yourself to trying again tomorrow. While many resolutions often go by the wayside in the early part of the year, having a good chunk of time under your belt gives you even more reason to stick with it!
Keep Tabs On Progress
Australian researchers found in a study from 2014 that 33% of individuals didn’t use any sort of tracking method for their resolution progress. Of course, that’s a huge indicator for fewer accomplished goals. For some, a wall calendar and a black marker are enough, as you can easily cross off the days you keep your commitment. Yet for more technologically minded individuals, there are a number of ways your phone can help, too.
So far, we’ve mostly discussed the main New Year’s resolutions among Americans, diet and exercise, but there are many more goals that tend to pop up around January 1st. Issues that have to do with one’s overall well-being, including smoking, nail-biting, or staying up too late, can be tracked thanks to HabitBull, an easy-to-use app that shows your progress across multiple sets of goals.
A huge part of overall health and wellness is mental space, and often people find that the new year is a great time to commit to being happier and more positive. Plenty of apps can target specific goals like gratitude journaling or meditation, but if your resolution is to boost your mood in a fun way, Happify might be a good fit. Easy mental exercises help to reduce stress and give you techniques for coping with triggering situations.
Above all else, sticking to a New Year’s resolution might be that much easier if you don’t do it alone. Planning and tracking may not be the issue, but instead, a sense of willpower or accountability might be what’s lacking. If you’ve ever tried to tackle a large project yourself, especially one that has a far-off deadline, you’ve probably experienced a bit of a struggle. Your New Year’s resolutions can have the same effect, leaving you questioning why you should even bother starting in the first place.
Try reaching out to a friend or family member to see if they’re interested in being accountability partners with you. Keep in mind that it helps to have similar goals, although that’s not completely necessary. Create a system that works for the both of you, including if you’ll meet up in person to accomplish your goals together, how often you will check in with each other, and how to best support one another when the going gets rough.
The idea of reporting to your friend every time you avoided biting your nails might sound a little strange, but according to the American Society of Training and Development, a person’s chance of success increases to 65% once they involve someone else in their efforts. Enlisting the help of a mentor can also dramatically improve your odds of sticking to your resolution, and actions like taking classes or working directly with a professional like a personal trainer or registered dietician tend to pay off in a big way.
Make 2019 All About You
Whether you choose to make dramatic changes each New Year or you find that any day on the calendar is right for becoming a healthier individual, you don’t have to let your resolutions get the best of you. It’s not too late to develop a detailed plan for your 2019 goals—just start creating your pros and cons list so you can get a real sense of how your resolution could change your life.
Partner with a friend, download an app on your phone, and above all else, remember that these lifestyle changes are done in an effort to support a long and healthy life. Try your best to keep perfectionism and stress out of the equation while you make strides toward your goals. Before you know it, the year will pass by and you’ll have a great accomplishment under your belt.
About Slingshot Health
Slingshot Health is a health tech startup that brings top healthcare providers and patients together. Patients bid on the cost of services and healthcare providers accept bids based on availability. Slingshot Health is unique in that it is a mutual marketplace putting both patients and providers back in control. Visit us at slingshothealth.com.