Happy New Year! With all of 2015 ahead of us, it’s a perfect time to examine where you’re at in life, what you learned over the past year, and what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.
At some point, I think most of us end up craving a fresh start, a clean slate – and while it may be just an arbitrary day on the calendar, New Year’s is the closest thing we have to just that. This is why it’s customary to make New Year’s resolutions focused on self-improvement.
But, as you probably know, it’s hard to make big changes. Too often, we find ourselves ending yet another year thinking about the weight we didn’t lose, the gym time we didn’t put in, and all the nights we ordered takeout instead of cooking at home.
The main problem is that our resolutions tend to be a little too ambitious. It sets us up for disappointment, because the goals are not reasonably attainable — we get burned out and eventually give up, returning to what’s familiar.
You stand the best chance of sticking to your New Year’s resolutions when you set simple, attainable, and reasonable goals that take into account all your current circumstances (finances, energy, health, time, etc).
Healthy and Attainable New Year’s Resolutions
- Set realistic fitness goals. “Lose weight” is one of the most common resolutions we make (and break) each year. We may just want to lose weight in general, or we may have a specific goal weight in mind, but what if we take weight out of the equation altogether?
- Those in the personal training profession are taught to set what are called “smart goals” – or smaller, incremental goals that give a sense of accomplishment along the way, helping to prevent a drop in motivation.
- Remember that your focus is on building strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health – not weight loss, necessarily.
- Be honest with yourself about what you have time for, and what fitness level you’re starting at, to avoid burnout and injury.
- Get up and move at work. Studies have shown that employees who sit for longer periods of time have higher rates of anxiety and depression. So if you have an office job and spend most of your day sitting, increasing your physical activity at work can have a positive effect on mental health. Try getting out of your seat for short breaks (and going outside if possible) to fight office weariness and increase your productivity. This is especially important if you’re a woman, as women report higher rates of psychological distress associated with sitting for too long.
- Practice gratitude. Starting a simple gratitude practice has a surprising range of benefits, and those who do it tend to be happier overall.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Put a positive spin on the usual “eat better” resolutions. Instead of saying “No dessert or takeout,” try resolving to eat more fruits and vegetables. Focus on the healthy foods you’ll add, rather than what you’ll eliminate, and you may find it easier to stick to your nutrition goals. (Find out how much fruit and vegetables you should be eating with the CDC’s calculator – http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/howmany.html.)
- Allow wind-down time before bed for better sleep. The risks of not getting enough sleep are quite scary, but we’re all guilty of it. But the reality is that if we want to be at our best during the day and to manage anxiety/regulate our emotions, we need appropriate sleep. In your heart you know that you’ll regret staying up for another episode of your favorite show on Netflix. Try to give yourself at least 30 minutes of quiet time with dim lighting and no glowing screens (including your smartphone!). A good night’s sleep is something never something you’ll regret.