Create a New Year’s Resolution That Will Stick
New year, New…You? Do you make New Year’s resolutions and find yourself abandoning them in a matter of weeks? A recent survey reveals 74 percent of adult Americans are starting the year off with a resolution. However, research suggests that only about nine percent of Americans who make resolutions complete them.
The most common resolutions? For 2023, the Forbes Health/OnePoll survey found some resolutions to be more common than others, with the most popular goals including:
- Improved mental health (45%)
- Improved fitness (39%)
- Lose weight (37%)
- Improved diet (33%)
- Improved finances (30%)
So why do we often fail with our resolutions? There are quite a few reasons why people find it difficult to stick to a resolution. Some of the bigger obstacles are:
It’s just not the right time. Sometimes the beginning of a new year simply isn’t the best time to start a big change. Between transitioning back to a busy schedule after the holiday season and the season itself being colder and darker for many of us, it may not be the right time. For example, if you are not motivated in the winter months, or you already feel the effects of seasonal depression, making a resolution for change in January may not be the right time for you. And that’s okay.
"Sometimes we are not ready for change, and it helps to be real with ourselves," says Paul Bennett, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a team lead at the Sentara Behavioral Health Center.
You may be choosing the "wrong type" of goal. There are generally two types of goals:
- Approach-oriented goals involve reaching or maintaining desired outcomes.
- Avoidance goals focus on avoiding or eliminating undesired outcomes.
For example, wanting to lose weight or stop smoking is an avoidance goal – the focus is on NOT being overweight and NOT smoking. But a goal such as wanting to be fitter and stronger is an approach-oriented goal that includes a new intention, often with smaller steps designed to back up the goal.
One study on New Year resolutions found that approach-oriented goals were "significantly more successful in sustaining their New Year’s resolutions compared to those with avoidance-oriented goals."
You are trying to go it alone. In the same study mentioned above, participants were asked to measure the amount of support they received in working on their resolution. Participants receiving support reported greater success than those receiving no support.
"These supports can remind us that having a difficult time with change is a common human experience, not something to be feared, and rather accepted, embraced, and faced," says Bennett.
Tips for Setting A Realistic, Achievable New Year’s Resolution
Start by setting an approach-oriented goal. Instead of "I want to lose weight," and then thinking of all the things you "can’t have" anymore, start with smaller steps you can ADD into your day to help achieve the goal. And re-word your goal to be more positive. Examples might be, "I want to improve how I approach my weight."
Break this goal down into small, measured, realistic steps to take over time. Examples of these steps might be:
- I will add a serving of vegetables to at least one meal daily.
- I will drink more water.
- I will add movement to my day/week.
- I will meal-plan twice a week to avoid eating on the run and making poor food choices.
NOTE: The goal is NOT to do all of these things at one time! Focus on one step until it feels like a normal part of your routine before you add another step. This may take a week for some people, and months for others.
Remember to keep your goals true to who you are and not so aspirational that you’ll want to give up.
Ask for Help and Seek Accountability. Many of us are uncomfortable asking for help. But when we are accountable not only to ourselves but someone else, we are more likely to succeed. Start by asking someone in your life to support you on your journey. Whether you choose a spouse or a friend, set aside some time regularly to check in with them. Better yet, find someone who has the same resolution so you can support one another, share ideas, and celebrate your wins.
Four ways you can set accountability:
- Tell a friend
- Create or join an accountability group,
- Use technology, like setting measured milestones on an electronic calendar
- Hire a coach
As you experience the discomfort of change, it is important to have supports that are both good at normalizing this discomfort and encouraging you to push through it," says Bennett.
Looking for support for your health resolutions? Sentara can help:
- Find a Doctor
- Find Behavioral Health Support
- Get Help with Quitting Smoking
- Schedule Your Mammogram Screening
- Sentara Nutrition Services
- Volunteer at Sentara Health
- Sentara Weight Loss Services
- Work at Sentara Health
By: Amy Sandoval