We all know the New Year comes with a flurry of health resolutions. January might bring habit changes, but come February or March, our goals for the new year may start to fizzle out. So how can you create and commit to sustainable change throughout the year? Check out some of our favorite strategies for creating long-term healthy habits that you can work at year-round.
1. Set SMART goals for yourself.
Take a minute to think about your overall health objectives. Maybe you would like to have more energy, increase productivity, or improve physical fitness. Once you’ve identified your main objectives, you can begin to set SMART goals. SMART stands for:
- Specific: Think about what specific action items will help you meet your overall objective. The more specific, the better!
- Measurable: How will you know you are making progress toward your goal? For example, instead of saying, “I will cook more,” state, “I will cook three times this week.”
- Achievable: Be realistic with yourself. Create a goal you feel you can actually meet.
- Relevant: Will your SMART goal help you reach your overall 2021 objectives?
- Time-based: When will you meet this goal?
For example, instead of saying, “My goal is to run more,” try, “I will run in my neighborhood 3 times per week for at least 15 minutes for the next month.”
2. Reflect on your motivation for change.
It can take a while to create new habits and see results from the changes you’ve made. You’ll likely have days where you don’t feel like meeting your goals for one reason or another. In these moments, it’s helpful to think about why you set these goals in the first place. Keeping a list of motivators somewhere you’ll see daily can help keep you motivated for long-term changes.
3. Create an accountability system.
What are some ways to hold yourself accountable? Accountability can help you stay on track long-term. Some strategies include setting aside time to check in with a friend or family member, using a habit tracker (write down your goals and put a check mark next to the days you met each goal) or even routinely checking in with a dietitian.
4. Be kind and patient with yourself.
Behavioral changes are hard! You may be trying to improve habits you’ve had for years, so be patient with yourself if you don’t meet your goals right away. It’s also important to be kind to yourself — a little positive self-talk can go a long way.
5. Evaluate your goals and progress.
This is an important step that can be easy to overlook. Once you’ve set SMART goals for yourself, be sure to take some time to evaluate your progress. Have you been able to meet your goals? If so, you may be ready to build upon them. However, this can also be a time to identify if you struggled to meet your goals. If you have, that’s OK! Instead of feeling guilty, it can be productive to think about barriers that may have gotten in your way and then modify your goals as needed.
6. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small!
Don’t forget to give yourself credit for any changes you’ve made, even if they seem small. To celebrate your wins, plan a fun family activity, treat yourself to an at-home spa day, or even save up for something special.
Creating new habits can be tough, but utilizing the strategies above can make it a little easier. These tips and tricks can also be used year-round and don’t have to be reserved for New Year’s resolutions.
Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.