After the gluttony of the holidays, it’s no surprise that we all rush to make resolutions for better living. We’re so stuffed with food and stress (remember that cardinal rule of no politics at the table? Seems like Uncle Van forgot again this year) that we’re at risk for making some bad decisions. And, generally speaking, New Year’s resolutions can be among them.
But wait, you say, aren’t resolutions about living healthy? Sure. They’re great goals. But how many of these resolutions have you actually kept through the years? Exactly.
Now, this isn’t entirely your fault. We have a difficult time making sweeping changes in our lives, not just because they’re difficult, but because our brains quite literally can’t handle it. As Leo Widrich of Buffer explains in his post “The Science of New Year’s Resolutions: Why 88% Fail and How to Make Them Work”, willpower is a muscle, and:
“If you decide to train that muscle at the start of the new year with a resolution to quit smoking, start going to the gym, or lose lots of weight, that’s the equivalent of a 300 pound barbell you want to lift without any previous training.”
So let’s break down four terrible New Year’s resolutions you’ve made in the past and think about ways to bring about success instead.
I’m going to lose weight.
Most of us want to do this every year. Especially after the holidays. But coming up with a big blanket statement without any attainable milestones isn’t going to get you very far. Start small, not sweeping. So consider making little changes, like drinking more water and upping your physical activity. Or better yet, consider getting a really good look at what your diet and fitness profile looks like. Many tracking devices like FitBit and Nike+ allow you to take a bird’s eye view of how much, or how little, exercise you get.
So maybe it’s not about losing weight per se – maybe it’s a resolution to take an honest look at your present state and make smaller changes, like starting a food diary or going for daily walks. That way you have many opportunities to succeed throughout the year, and you won’t be in the doldrums in February when those pounds still haven’t miraculously vanished.
I’m going to stop eating junk food.
Again, we’re not going specific here. Yeah, junk food is bad. But chances are if you eliminate it all at once you’re likely to slip. After all, what qualifies as junk food? In a moment of weakness you might convince yourself that homemade birthday cake can’t possible be junk food, right? That frosting was made by hand. How dare you call it junk!
How about some serious snack replacement. Junk food often sneaks up on us when we’re at our weakest – at night when we’re tired and hungry, at work when we’re stressed, or during travel. Aim for being satisfied ahead of the curve by packing healthy snack packs for yourself that you can put in your purse, your car, and at your desk. It’s the convenience we often crave. So make healthy food convenient and you might find that you’re less likely to binge on the junk.
Need some ideas? Try this list.
I’m going to take more time for myself.
Sure you are. As busy adults sidled with job and family responsibilities, it’s always a challenge to get that coveted me time. Add kids and pets to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. We all know that time alone is important for just about everyone, but finding it can be a huge challenge.
This is made even worse by the invasive nature of social media and the constant presence of our cell phones. So here’s a thought. Why don’t you schedule time away from the noise? Maybe a personal staycation isn’t in the cards. But when you’re taking time off from work, uninstall your email app for work. Turn off all those Facebook notifications – maybe just after nine o’clock. Find a good book, a quiet corner. Meditate for a few minutes. Do some yoga poses. If the evenings don’t work, try first thing in the morning.
Whatever you do, remember that while you feel as if you’re not in control it’s not always the case. Cultivate your stream, as I like to say. You’ll be surprised how quiet it can get.
I’m going to be a runner.
Sure, the idea of running can be an exhilarating one. Breaking through the finish line, your friends ooh-ing and aah-ing in seponse. Wow, how impressed everyone will be! Forget that you haven’t run since 9th grade gym class, or that you haven’t bought a new set of sneakers since college. Running is easy. Everyone on Facebook is doing it.
Take it from a newbie runner – running is hard. And time consuming. And fun! And thrilling, too, yes. But it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of listening to your body and going slowly. In fact, when I wrote this piece earlier in the year I was planning to run a half-marathon . But my body said no. Between heel and knee injuries, it’s been better to go slow and build purposefully rather than go out and end up giving up.
So maybe start a running plan – and start it with friends. And pay close attention to injury prevention, especially if you’re out of your college years. Start out by just making running a part of your fitness routine and build up to the impressive goals. Be accountable to your group, and help build them up, too. You will achieve that goal — just probably not as a result of a New Year’s resolution.
What’s your resolution advice? Let us know your successes and failures. Wishing you all a happy New Year!
[Top image: Shutterstock]