Many of us ring in the New Year eager to make a fresh start; to set good intentions and goals for the year ahead.
Unfortunately, we have a poor track record when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions.
We start off strong, committed to making each coming year healthier and happier by changing our diets, paying off debts, signing up for fitness classes, and so much more! However, it’s not long before we begin to lose momentum and return to our old routines. In fact, research shows that 50 to 80% of us fail to turn resolutions into enduring lifestyle habits. The reasons vary, but the three most common are that the resolutions were: “1) too broad; 2) too big, or 3) too many.”
As an organization dedicated to improving the wellbeing of Canadians, we want to help set you up for success. That’s why we’ve created this guide to making resolutions that stick — and not just for the next 12 months. By following these practical steps, you can develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Perhaps he best way to achieve any goal is to apply the SMART method. By this we mean setting goals that are:
Trying to accomplish multiple goals at once will quickly get overwhelming and ultimately lead to failure. Instead, focus on achieving one goal before moving onto the next.
Goals that are clearly defined are easier to achieve, while the opposite is true for goals that are too vague. If you want to be a better version of yourself in 2022 (this is a popular resolution, by the way), decide exactly what that means for you and then work towards that particular goal.
Similarly, it’s important to establish clear targets and timeframes to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight in 2022, what number do you want to see when you step on the scales at the end of the year? Whatever your goal, make sure that it is time-based, specific and measurable, as per the SMART formula above.
In the same vein, your goal should not be so grand or sweeping as to be unattainable. A couch potato doesn’t transform into a marathon runner over night. Therefore, if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle up until now, you shouldn’t expect to wake up one morning and walk 10,000 steps. Remember: Slow and steady are keys to winning the race.
Who are the cheerleaders in your life — the people who will root for you from the sidelines and pick you up when you fall? A family member? Friend? Co-worker? Ask that person to be your support buddy. Report your progress with regular check-ins, such as weekly call or text to share updates. You will likely get a bit of encouragement or advice in exchange.
Another way to hold ourselves accountable is by making a written or verbal promise to people you don't want to let down. Studies show that when we write or verbalize our goals, we stand a better chance of achieving them.
Don’t beat yourself up if you go off your diet or miss a few workouts. Studies of human behaviour show that resolutions typically go through three stages: action, maintenance and relapse. We can avoid this pattern by adhering to the wise old adage that says: “if at first we don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Does the mere thought of a workout make you break out in a sweat? If your resolution for 2022 is to get in top physical shape, choose activities that you enjoy. Pick up a hula hoop or a jump rope at the local dollar store to skip your way to better health. How about ultimate frisbee or pickleball to get the heart rate up and build muscles? The same is true for activities to improve your mental health. What better way to lower your stress levels than with a warm bath, a soothing playlist or a meditation app?
You can also increase your chances of succeeding at your resolutions, by doing activities that are fun, especially if it involves the entire family. For example, look for recipes that pack a healthy punch but have plenty of appeal. Think fruit kebabs, mini pizzas, smoothies and veggie dips. Invite the kids to take part in meal planning and preparation. Extend the fun, by having a dance party in the living room, a Wii game or friendly pillow fight.
Sticking to our resolutions is easier when we weave health and wellness activities into our daily or weekly routines. For example, to get those 10,000 steps in, you might increase the distance you take your dog for a daily walk. Whenever possible, think about going on foot, rather than by car to pick up the mail or run an errand.
At-home alternatives to gyms and studios invite us to keep our bodies fit and minds sharp by moving the furniture out of the way and following an on-demand workout video or joining a live class online. They allow us to customize programs to match our fitness levels, schedules and interests. So, if you want to practice low-impact yoga, you can hit the mat when it suits your schedule – after the kids have headed off to school, during your lunch hour, or once the kids are tucked into bed.
As technology advances, it’s getting easier to monitor and measure our progress efficiently. The internet is awash with fitness devices and wearables that have built-in functionalities to reduce our risk behaviours and develop healthy habits in helping us not only get fit, but lose weight, manage our medications, control chronic diseases like diabetes and lower our risk for other conditions. Consider investing in one to get your new year off on the right foot.
Old habits die hard. This especially true of habits that involve pleasure and reward (which triggers the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurochemical). That’s why when we get down, some of us dig into a tub of ice cream or go online to shop. When you know what your triggers are, you can respond differently to those feelings or experiences that cause you to break good habits.
Don’t sweat the small stuff— and reward yourself for the wins, big and small. Give yourself incentives to reach your goals, be it that chocolate cookie you’ve been craving after you have shed a few pounds or a new dress when you drop a size. It’s ok to indulge once in awhile, as long as you don’t go back to your old ways of doing things.
Stencil inspirational quotes on the walls, or frame motivational messages. Create a vision board that illustrates your goals for the year ahead and make it your computer screensaver. Clip out a picture of the bathing suit you want to fit into by summer and hang it on the fridge. In doing so, you will keep your goals front and centre — and top of mind.
Throughout the year, let’s continue to reflect and ere-evaluate our lifestyle choices. Resolve to make positive changes with easy-to-keep, unrestrictive, sustainable resolutions that are guided by the expert tips and advice we have provided.