It’s easy, in the midst of all the holiday excess, to make promises to ourselves about how we’ll change our behavior once we reach New Year’s morning – and it’s just as easy to fall head first off the wagon.
“It’s important to remember,” said psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD, “that the New Year isn’t meant to usher in sweeping changes in our character. It is a time to reflect on behavior we’d like to change, and work at it one step at a time. It’s not the extent of the change that matters, but act of recognizing that change is important.”
Whether you want to lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking or whatever, Bufka suggests five ways to give yourself the best chance of making your resolutions stick:
- Start small – Make resolutions you think you can realistically keep. If your aim is to exercise, try for three days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you want to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of nothing at all.
- Change one thing at a time – Work at changing only one behavior at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to change too many things at once.
- Talk about it – Share your experiences with people you trust – or consider joining a support group. Having someone share your struggles and successes makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much less intimidating.
- Don’t beat yourself up – Nobody is perfect, and minor missteps are normal and OK. Don’t give up because you ate a brownie or missed a few days at the gym. Resolve to recover from small mistakes and get back on track.
- Ask for support – Accepting help strengthens your resilience. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help.