Turn healthy New Year's resolutions into habits

by 1st Lt. Jessica Teachout, Tripler Army Medical Center, Nutrition Care Division
Stripes Korea

HONOLULU (January 2, 2017) - Resolutions are synonymous with the coming of a new year. However, as exciting as they may be, resolutions are like shooting stars; they fizzle out. Here are some tips to help you stick to your resolutions this year.

ADD INSTEAD OF SUBTRACT

A good place to start is by adding goals to your lifestyle rather than subtracting. It is easier to form a new habit than to eliminate one. For example, adding a serving of vegetables to your lunch every day may be a less overwhelming practice than removing all sweets from your diet at once. Once you feel more comfortable with adding the healthier habits or foods, you can try reducing some of the less-healthy ones.

START OFF SLOW

Use the SMART goal method to create goals. That is, make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. These should be small, clear goals that set you up for success. For example, if you walk your dog for 30 minutes seven days a week, make a goal to extend that to 40 minutes seven days a week for the rest of the month. That is only ten extra minutes out of the 1,440 minutes in your day. However, it adds up to over an hour of extra exercise per week.

Once you reach that goal, add on to it or create a new one.

DON'T OVERDO IT

Often when we get inspired, we vow to make a full lifestyle change, something like, "I'm going to get eight hours of sleep, stop eating meat, and go running 30 minutes every day." Piling up all of these goals at one time can seem exciting, but, vowing to make so many changes at once is setting you up for failure.

Think about your current habits. You did not establish these practices overnight; it took several years to develop them. Creating new, healthier habits also takes time. In fact, it takes a full 21 times of doing something for it to become a habit and this only applies to simple changes like hanging up your towel after you shower. Pick one thing you want to accomplish at a time and stick to it.

MAKE GIVING UP PAINFUL

Recruit a no-nonsense friend to hold you accountable. Plan to fork up money, do something utterly embarrassing, or give up something you enjoy if you do not reach your goal. Make sure your friend holds you responsible. When there is a lot on the line, we somehow find a way to make it happen.

DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP

If you fall off the horse one day, do yourself a favor and jump back on tomorrow. Do not fall victim to the "all or nothing approach." Figure out one thing you can do every day that is a little bit better than yesterday. It does not have to be perfect, just better. After all, we are only human - be gracious with yourself.

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