The new year is just around the corner. For many, the start of 2016 is a time of renewed determination brimming with opportunities. So, why does our drive for improvement often fade when February rolls around? Avoid resolution remorse in the New Year by setting attainable goals, keeping yourself accountable and refusing to give up.

Cindy Weston, D.N.P., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing compares keeping a New Year’s resolution to playing a competitive game at a carnival.

“You start out focused, but soon become distracted by other things happening around you,” she said. “Then, when you finally finish first, you get a smaller prize than expected instead of the grand prize you had your eye on.”

Similarly, the New Year always seems to start on a high note. We promise to eat better, exercise more or lose weight. But, after a month of tackling our goals, our newfound resolve disappears when we aren’t seeing the results we long for. Healthy lifestyle goals are often pushed to the back burner after we realize they are much harder to achieve and require more time than we originally thought.

According to Weston, we can empower ourselves to make the changes we desire by taking a more defined approach to goal-setting. “The key is to make your resolutions attainable,” she said. “Start small and set yourself up for success. When you reach one goal it’s much easier to stay the path in the long haul. Surround yourself with those who will keep you accountable and remember to be kind to yourself during the process.”

Be decisive, and start small

Resolutions that aim to improve health, whether physical or mental, are always a good place to begin. Weston suggests starting with small, specific goals instead of a large undertaking.

“The key to keeping resolutions is to set concrete, attainable goals,” she added. “Be honest with yourself about what you want. Research shows that if you set specific goals at the beginning of the year you are more likely to accomplish them by the end of the year.”

For example: Have you always thought about drinking less soda or making sure you get the recommended amount of sleep at night? According to Weston, pondering your bad habits and searching for improvements can pave a pathway to success.

If you are looking to lose weight, Weston said that even losing just five to ten pounds could drastically improve your health. “There is a lot of research that shows by losing five to ten pounds you can lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol. Strive to move for 30 minutes a day. Even the busiest person can fit 30 minutes of activity in their schedule,” she said.

Start small and when you achieve that goal you can always make a bigger goal. Small changes like these in your lifestyle are the foundation for achieving larger goals and improving your overall health.

For an overarching resolution—like making lifestyle changes such as eating healthier or reducing stress—create small goals each month to build upon. Instead of trying to accomplish everything at once, take smaller steps to get there.

Stay the course, and make yourself accountable

What exactly is the best way to keep the wind in our resolution sails? According to Weston, creating a game plan and holding yourself accountable is key.

“I personally like to check in every three months to remind myself of my resolution and refocus,” Weston said. This is a good approach to keeping yourself accountable and works particularly well for routine-oriented resolutions like exercising three times a week.

Adding friends to the equation is a simple way to increase accountability and make resolutions more fun. If you decide to cook more, invite friends over to share the meal. Make a pact with a friend to exercise together. Then, you are less likely to skip out on that morning run or group class. It’s also an excellent way to build friendships with one another while keeping each other accountable.

Are you a tech-savvy individual looking for a better way to keep healthy resolutions? There’s an app for that. Certain fitness and healthy living apps can help you keep track of your progress with built in reminders and tips. Some may even be able to intervene before you fall back to bad habits!

Don’t give up!

The most important piece of advice to remember about New Year’s resolutions is that you will probably slip up, and that’s okay.

“Be kind to yourself and if you miss a day or you have a bad week don’t let it discourage you. Get back on course and keep trying. With a little perseverance, you can achieve anything,” Weston said.

— Madison Matous

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