January 17th may not be a special day on your calendar, but it is a particularly meaningful day for New Year’s resolutions: that’s the day the average resolution gets broken. Your plans to lose weight, quit smoking, or run a mile every day are statistically likely to be a thing of the past by January 17th.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five practical steps you can take to make your New Year’s resolutions stick.
Make small goals
You can make a big goal and plan to accomplish it by December 31st, but you can also make a small goal and get it done sooner. Once you complete that goal, you can make a new goal. You can even keep that big goal in mind as you go through the year accomplishing small goals. For example, instead of planning to work out for 150 minutes a week, you could plan to exercise for 10 minutes a day, three days a week.
Once you’re steadily doing 10 minutes a day of walking, you can add another 5 minutes. By December 31st, you’ll probably be doing that 150 minutes a week, but this is a less daunting way to do it.
Make one change
You could give up sugar…but you could also just quit drinking soda for breakfast. If it seems hard to skip your morning drive-through Coke, you can remind yourself that you can still have a soda for lunch, or experiment with different kinds of tea to find a happier alternative.
Other small changes that can add up to big benefits:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have at a party.
- Take up Meatless Mondays.
- Set a five-minute timer when you get home and make that your daily quiet time.
- Eat at the table every time you eat, instead of noshing in front of the TV or over the sink.
Choose habits over goals
Instead of thinking about your resolution in terms of the goal, identify habits that support the goal. For example, losing weight may be tough. However, taking a daily walk will probably cause you to lose some pounds.
Focus on the habits you want to change, and the goals will probably take care of themselves.
Tie new habits to current habits
Think of something you already do every day, and add the new habit you want to that current habit. For example, people who keep sunscreen next to their toothbrushes are more likely to wear sunscreen every day. You’re going to brush your teeth, so anchoring sunscreen to the existing habit helps you remember.
If you tend to come home from work and head straight for the kitchen for a snack, let that trip to the kitchen be your cue to get a drink of water instead of a bag of chips.
Plan a cue
Habits usually include three parts:
- a cue, such as the ringing of your wake-up alarm
- a response to the cue, such as hitting the snooze button
- a reward, such as getting 10 more minutes in bed
Set a new habit loop up for yourself. For example, decide that when your alarm goes off, you will put on your walking shoes. Once you’ve got your walking shoes on, it’s a small step to put on some clothes and head out the door for a ten minute walk in the time you used to spend snoozing.
Your reward? After a couple of weeks, you’ll feel energized and happy that you took that walk. In the meantime, plan an enjoyable breakfast or another small treat for yourself when you get back from that walk.
With these 5 tips, you may find that your resolutions make a difference next year!