The Worst New Year's Resolutions You Can MakeStart Strong by Starting with the Right Goals
-- By Megan Coatley, Certified Behavior Analyst
As December comes to a close, people all over the globe are preparing for New Year's festivities and chatting with friends about their goals and dreams for the coming year. I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with New Year's resolutions. While a commitment to a change can be a great way to jump-start your healthy lifestyle, sometimes people are so brazen about boasting their goals that detailed plans and effective strategies for reaching them can get glossed over.
Below is a list of the most common New Year's resolutions that are almost destined to be dumped by early February. Are you guilty of setting vague and ineffective resolutions like these? Don't worry: We'll show you how to create goals that will motivate you to succeed long after the confetti has fallen.
Resolution #1: I will completely cut out [insert unhealthy vice here]!
After a holiday season of excessive indulgence, many people decide to quit smoking cold turkey, swear off alcohol altogether, or ban all sweets forever. How many times have you said, "If I never see another Christmas cookie/hot toddy/pumpkin pie, it will be too soon"? While it can initially feel empowering to "just say no" to unhealthy habits, parting ways with a longtime vice is likely to leave you feeling deprived and desperate in the long run. Some research shows that swearing off certain foods actually makes you think about them more and feel powerless in their presence!
Resolution Revamp: Forget about nixing your caffeine, nicotine or sugar fix for good. Instead, set a goal to add something healthy to your daily routine. When you're trying to boost wellness, behavior science has proven that it is much easier to increase a healthy new behavior than to get rid of an old one. So a better goal than banning soda might be to focus on drinking eight cups of water every day. Or, if you feel powerless around sugar, rather than focusing on avoiding the office candy jar, you could plan to add an extra serving of fresh fruit to your lunch box. Adding healthy habits will give you a reason to pat yourself on the back (instead of punishing yourself for those guilty pleasures). And once you start to meet your new targets and build momentum, you'll be surprised how quickly those unhealthy behaviors will start to fall away.
Resolution #2: I will reach my goal weight by this summer!
Maybe you didn't overindulge this season, but you're still struggling with some unhappy thoughts about your current weight, dress size or body shape. Losing weight is the number one New Year's resolution. But, if you go about setting your weight loss goals the wrong way, you're likely to quit or—even worse—gain it all back and then some! The problem with a resolution to simply "lose weight" is that the results are too far off to keep you motivated.
Resolution Revamp: Instead of setting a goal to shed pounds, set more specific goals that account for all of the other small, measurable achievements you'll reach along the way. Skip the scale and find measures besides body weight and clothing size to track your progress. Whether you count salad lunches per week, pull-ups per minute, time on the stationary bike, or heart rate on your morning hike, monitoring other metrics can help you realize that losing weight isn't the only benefit for your focus on nutrition and exercise. And because your stats for muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness tend to improve more quickly than the number on the scale, you'll be able to boast about your results in no time (and losing weight will be a bonus by-product for your efforts).<pagebreak>
Resolution #3: I will join a [gym, health club, exercise class]!
Joining a gym or club can be a great way to reset a rusty fitness routine—but only after you actually go on a consistent basis. Beware those flashy first-of-the-year television ads and deep discounts! Many of those who purchase a gym membership in January bail on their workouts within the first six months. When newcomers are turned off by the extra drive time, the surplus of lycra-clad lads and ladies, the loud music or the crowded, sweat-drenched exercise stations, the apparent perks of the gym atmosphere may not outweigh the pitfalls. If your resolution this year is to get fit, then be sure to assess your wants and needs before signing that health club contract.
Resolution Revamp: The first step to fitting more fitness into your life is picking a program that works for you. Start by writing down what you want from your workouts: Musical motivation or a stoic, silent sweat? Crowded classes or personal space? Climate control or outdoor elements? Don't forget to factor in the commute, child-care options, shower space and more. Scope out contenders and ask for a complimentary day pass to explore at your own pace. If you don't find a gym that stacks up to your expectations, then strike out on your own! There's a bounty of online exercise videos and DVDs at your local library, not to mention cheap, simple equipment that will get you fit without breaking the bank. You may find that designing an at-home workout program or enlisting a neighbor as your running buddy is the most economical and empowering way to spark a sustainable fitness habit.
Resolution #4: I will spend more quality time with my [friends, spouse, family]!
When the gatherings are over and the decorations are put away, post-party January blues can have you pining for a full house and swinging social schedule. Spending more quality time with loved ones is a popular resolution and it is important to your health to come together for happy occasions and celebrations throughout the year. But focusing too much on fitting in elaborate activities with friends, family and children can leave you stressed out and stretched too thin.
Resolution Revamp: Take a look at your upcoming events and notice all the time you're already devoting to helping and visiting family and friends: school plays, dentist appointments, birthday parties, science fairs, etc. Instead of adding to the festivities, pencil in a few hours a week just for you. Get a massage, read a new book, watch the game, take a walk in the park. Feel guilty about taking time out? Tell yourself that taking time to recharge can help you enjoy your engagements even more. Once you've gotten into the swing of giving yourself some quality "me" time, then you can add in appointments for phone calls with friends, date night with your spouse, and other group activities. Creating your calendar from the inside out will help you set the perfect pace in the coming year.
Resolution #5: I will max out my savings account this year!
Everyone's wallet feels a little lighter after the holiday season, so January is often a time when people consider changing their spending habits. There's no doubt that financial fitness is good for your mental and physical health. (Think about that downward spiral that happens when you feel like you can't afford the basics, let alone healthy foods or your favorite yoga class!) But socking money away can also cause stress and tension, especially if you're lacking a specific goal or the support to make it happen.
Resolution Revamp: If your resolution is to accumulate more and spend wisely, involve everyone in your household in the decision to save. Will you break open your piggy bank for a family vacation, a family health club membership, a new car, a kitchen renovation, or a year of college for your eldest child? Choose a goal that's important to everyone in your home and know how much you need to reach it. Then break down that big number into a per-paycheck amount and, if the overall goal is too far in the future, sprinkle in small rewards for meeting benchmarks – these strategies will help you to stay motivated on the path to savings success. Pinching pennies the right way can strengthen your spirit and lead to long-term mental, fiscal and physical wellness.<pagebreak>
So, at your upcoming New Year's party, don't just follow the crowd and spout simple, undeveloped resolutions. You've now got the knowledge to create a personalized plan of action that will help you to start the year off right: with a renewed sense of excitement about your journey toward total health and wellness. Regardless of the specific goals you're trying to tackle this year, the best and most effective resolutions are always:
Small and easy to achieve without much extra effort. For example, start by adding just 10 more minutes of exercise per week (as opposed to the lofty goal of an extra hour, five days per week!).
Specific and behavior-focused. "Eat 3 servings of veggies each day" is a specific behavior that you can observe and measure while "eat healthier" is not easy to define.
Designed with a reward in mind. Hold off on purchasing that new jacket, gadget or smart phone app until meet your goal of exercising five days per week or completing your first 5K this spring.
Taken on one at a time. Overhauling your entire lifestyle at once can be too intense. Don't be afraid to focus on the exercise first, and start to eat healthier foods later (or vice versa).
- Reviewed and revised often. Revisit your goals at the end of each week to see how well they're working for you. Don't wait for the entire year to pass before you evaluate your progress or add in a new challenge.