Health Matters Blog

Putting Resolve into New Year’s Resolutions

Putting Resolve into New Year’s Resolutions

By Dr. Janine Foote

So what resolutions did you make when the clock struck 12:01 a.m. this past Sunday? And how are you doing on them so far during this first week of 2012? Starting the new year with a self-improvement goal is a time honored tradition. You can ride that global feeling of having a fresh start and determine to do things differently in the future.

Janine Foote, DO

Janine Foote, DO

A lot of the more common resolutions are health related. We want to lose weight, quit smoking or drinking, or just feel less stressed. These kinds of resolutions may stem partly from the excess of the just completed holiday season that starts with Halloween candy and closes with New Year’s champagne. They may come from information learned during your last check-up about high blood pressure or cholesterol. Maybe your children or your partner, or both, have asked you to take better care of yourself for their sake.

Whatever the reason, congratulations if you made a resolution to live a healthier lifestyle in 2012. Now comes the hard part — sticking to it. Breaking a New Year’s resolution is as much a tradition as making one for some. But there are lots of things you can do to make sure you stay focused as you travel down the path you’ve set toward making you a better you.

Be realistic – Two of the main reasons we break resolutions are we make too many and we set our goals too high. Don’t look at resolutions as a way to fix things that you think are not right in your life. Think of them as a stepping stone towards betterment. If you’d like to lose 25 pounds, make it your resolution to lose 10 by the end of winter. It’s hard to get started if you feel overwhelmed at the onset, but once you have that forward momentum you’ll be encouraged to continue.

Express goals positively – Many of us characterize resolutions as “giving up” something we once enjoyed. Right off the bat we are pitting ourselves against ourselves in a conflict that challenges our willpower. Health related resolutions especially cannot be thought about in this manner if we want a successful outcome. Most diets, for example, are constructed around eliminating certain types of foods, but then when the diet ends we go right back to eating those same unhealthy foods or the same unhealthy portions. Making a conscious declaration that your resolution is a goal toward living a healthier lifestyle will give you the type of psychological boost that may even turn a resolution into a permanent change for the better.

Go public – The underlying psychology of making a resolution is to give yourself the necessary motivation to achieve a goal that had previously been out of reach. But if a resolution isn’t declared out loud is it really a resolution? Encouragement and accountability from friends and family are important when your own volition starts to lag. Tell them what your goal is and tell them how they can help you achieve it. Some of us need an exercise partner, while someone else may need a co-worker to stand and talk with them during the time of day they used to have a cigarette, and others of us may just need our children or partner to provide words of encouragement.

Be specific – Don’t just determine to get into shape and leave it open-ended. Set a goal to exercise a certain number of times each week, but spread how you exercise across different types. If you go to the gym two days a week, organize a group walk another two days and participate in one team or individual athletic activity, you’re exercising five days out of seven before you know it. If you want to drink less alcohol, set a spending or social guideline for when and how much is appropriate given your goal.

Celebrate progress – Along the lines of being specific with your goals, make sure you have a way to benchmark the positive steps you take toward achieving it. Get a blank calendar and write down dates for when you would expect to see progress or results. Make sure you share these small victories with the people you’ve confided in, and even give yourself a way to celebrate so long as it isn’t a reward that makes you “cheat” on your goals.

Forgive yourself – If you do find yourself backsliding on goals, either in the short-term progress or overall achievement, don’t use it as an excuse to give up entirely. A year is 365 days long and what couldn’t be done in the spring because of an unforeseen circumstance may be more achievable in the fall. After all, even if you only get partway to your goal, there’s always another turning of the calendar year that allows you to pick up where you left off or even start all over again.

Some web sites where you can find information for achieving your health-related goals include Overeater Anonymous, The Center for Mindful Eating and Psychology Today. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Janine Foote, D.O., is a primary care physician at the newly established Brattleboro Family Medicine practice, which is part of BMH Physician Group.