- It’s that time of year again—as the new year approaches, you may be one of the many people thinking about setting a New Year’s resolution. But how do you make your resolution goals attainable? It’s so easy to set grand goals at the start of the year, only to leave them by the wayside come February or even mid-January. Behavior modification is difficult, but there are ways to improve your chances of success.
Keys of Behavior Modification
Your behavior plays a key role in achieving your resolution, whether it’s to lose weight, exercise more or eat healthier foods. Unfortunately, changing our behavior is often a difficult task. Some behavior modification strategies that can help make the task easier include:
- Realistic goals
How can you change behavior if you don’t know what your behavior is like? Self-monitoring helps increase awareness about your behavior to help you recognize problems early and track success. It involves tracking patterns in daily activity by observing and recording physical activity, drinking and eating patterns. You can use food diaries, regular weight checks, exercise logs, pedometers and more to monitor your activity. Use the patterns you discover to determine which behaviors help you meet your goals and which detract from them. Then work on engaging in the healthy behaviors more often.
Another important part of changing behaviors is education. The body is complicated and it’s important to recognize this and make an effort to learn more about how to care for your body. There are a number of ways to educate yourself; here are a couple ideas:
- Visit your primary care physician (PCP) – A PCP is an excellent resource when you want to learn more about your body. Talk to them about the changes you want to make to work toward a healthier you. They can give you information and help you develop a plan for healthier living.
- Talk to a dietitian – We usually think we understand what’s healthy for us but may be mistaken. Dietitians can help you develop meal plans, teach you about how foods affect your healthy goals and help you develop healthy nutritional goals.
Behavior change is hard, so don’t try to do it all on your own. Surround yourself with the support you need to stick with your resolutions. This may be in the form of an accountability partner, a workout buddy or a support group, just to name a few options. Support groups are an excellent option for many people on a journey toward healthier living. Here are some tips for finding and engaging with a good support group:
- Ask your PCP for references
- Look for a support group you feel comfortable with such as a men-only, women-only or faith-based group
- Speak up at meetings; other people are probably feeling similar things, so don’t be afraid to share your thoughts
- Try an online support group if you don’t want to meet face-to-face
Set Realistic Goals
Keeping your resolution and goals realistic helps increase your chance of sticking with them long term and achieving results. Here are some tips for setting attainable goals:
- Break down long-term goals into small goals – Long-term goals are great, but they are often vague and feel far away. Break them down into smaller goals that are more tangible and can be achieved in a shorter period of time.
- Set a realistic time frame – We all want to see results right away, but behavior change takes time. When setting goals, give yourself a realistic time frame to make changes and don’t expect to transform your life overnight.
- Understand what you need to do to meet your goals – Knowing how to get where you want is a big step in the right direction. Talk to your PCP about long-term healthy living goals and what you can do to work toward them.
- Choose one behavior – Working toward multiple large goals at once can be overwhelming. Focus instead on one behavior at a time and only add new goals when that behavior becomes part of your regular lifestyle.
- Make goals measurable – You need to know if you’re meeting your goals, so make them specific and measurable.
Common Resolution Mistakes
There are a number of common mistakes people make when setting resolutions, so avoid these pitfalls to help you achieve your goals:
- The goal is too broad – Ambiguous or broad goals are difficult to achieve, so make goals specific.
- No accountability – Without repercussions, you’re more likely to give up or make excuses.
- You don’t have a plan – A good plan broken down into small steps and goals is crucial for success.
- The resolution feels like a chore – Your goal should push you out of your comfort zone, but shouldn’t feel too boring, difficult or daunting.
Tips for Sticking with Healthy Living Goals
Even after setting realistic goals, it can be difficult to stick with them. Here are some tips for following through on some healthy living goals:
- Ask a family member or friend to exercise with you
- Include the family in meal planning and preparation; have children help cook and choose healthy foods
- Recognize small successes along the way and reward your progress
- Ask for help if you’re struggling by talking to a family member, friend or your PCP
Get ready to tackle your New Year’s resolution with the help of your PCP. They can work with you to set attainable resolutions based on your long-term health goals. Together you can develop a clear strategy and a personalized treatment plan for a healthier you!