Having realistic goals and expectations, especially with the limitations brought on by the pandemic, and being emotionally ready to change, are essential to keeping New Year’s resolutions, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“Three reasons why people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions are that the resolution isn’t realistic, the person expects an unrealistic benefit, or the person wasn’t prepared to make the change,” said Jenna Anding, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension nutrition specialist, Bryan-College Station.
Anding said most adults tend to shy away from resolutions and those who take up the challenge are more likely to be younger or middle-aged.
“Statistics also suggest older adults who do make resolution are not very successful at keeping them,” she noted. “But that’s not to say resolutions don’t work. In fact, those who make resolutions tend to have more success at changing behaviors as compared to those who don’t make resolutions.”
Some of the top New Year’s resolutions include:
- Eating healthier/losing weight.
- Getting more exercise.
- Spending less/saving more.
- Being more organized.
- Dedicating more time with friends and family.
- Finding more “me” time.
- Quitting smoking or drinking.
Zeroing in on your resolution
Anding said one way to approach successful resolution making is for people to first list the three behaviors they most want to change.
“Such behaviors could be eating better, getting more exercise, saving more money or working on personal relationships,” she said. “Look at the behaviors you have identified and choose the one you most want to concentrate on improving. Then take a close and realistic look at the behavior you have chosen, then think if a specific goal that would reflect where you would like to be through modifying that behavior. Write down that final goal, making sure it is both realistic and achievable.”
The next step is to make a plan and come up with a series of smaller, attainable goals leading toward the final goal, she said.
“For example, if the goal is to run a marathon but right now you can’t run to the end of the block, consider starting with a more realistic goal of walking for 30 minutes a day three to five days a week, Once that’s a regular habit, set another goal to run a 5K within three to six months and then a 10K, gradually working up to a half-marathon and then a full marathon.”
Anding said it is important to remember achieving a final goal does not have to fit into a rigid timetable.
“Just keep planning and meeting those mini-goals as steps toward the final goal,” she said.
However, she said, people should write down and commit to a specific date on which to begin their desired behavior change.
“Pick a date that is important, significant or memorable and put it on your calendar,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be the exact start of a new year. Once you pick your date, plan how you will accomplish your goal. In other words, identify and write down those specific actions you will need to take to be successful.”
Overcoming obstacles to meeting your goals
Anding noted the situation with COVID-19 might impose a challenge in keeping some New Year’s resolutions for 2021 more difficult, especially at the first of the year.
“People likely will continue to stay at home more, which could lead to more trips to the refrigerator. Gyms or studios where people can exercise may continue to be closed or limited in capacity. Don’t let this dissuade you. Set out a plan for eating healthier meals at home and cutting down on junk food. And instead of going to the gym, exercise at home or go on a long walk or bicycle ride.”
Improving eating habits is usually one of the top New Year’s resolutions, but that resolution too should also be taken in small bites, Anding said.
“It’s best to break this into mini-goals such as committing to eating one more vegetable or fruit each day or switching sugar-sweetened beverages to water or other healthier options.
Anding said there will invariably be challenges on the journey toward meeting both smaller goals and your ultimate New Year’s resolution goal.
“So, it’s important to think ahead, be flexible and have a contingency plan to deal with whatever obstacles may present themselves as you strive toward meeting that final goal.”
Involve others and reward yourself
Anding said it is also a good idea to share the New Year’s resolution with friends or family and ask for their support.
“List the names of people you want to know about your resolution, and ask for their encouragement and help,” she said. “It’s easier to keep your resolution if you have others supporting you, plus involving others makes you more accountable.”
Finally, Anding said, those who meet their set goals toward reaching their New Year’s resolution should find ways to reward themselves for their progress.
“Do something nice for yourself like treat yourself to some music or read a good book,” she said. “Or you can indulge in a guilty pleasure so long as it doesn’t sabotage your efforts. It’s also fine to share your successes with others as a means of self-validation.”