Creating Healthy Habits for the New Year

Happy New Year scrabble pieces

By: Madison Boissiere, Undergraduate Student in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

With the New Year comes a new opportunity to finally get started on the habits and goals you’ve been thinking about. Maybe you had these same goals last year but weren’t able to follow through. In fact, 92% of Americans do not follow through with their New Year’s resolutions. If you are part of this majority, don’t worry! This year can be different with the right plan and preparation.

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. Recognizing the lifestyle changes you want to incorporate into your life and working towards those changes one step at a time is the most important way to turn your resolution into a lifestyle habit that you keep in the coming years.

Here are some tips to help you create healthy, long-lasting habits:

Focus On One Goal Each Month

Having a long list of goals can be daunting and overwhelming. You want to feel empowered by your goals, so consider gradually incorporating them into your life instead of all at once. By focusing on one goal each month, you are more likely to turn these short term goals into long-lasting ones. For example, one month you may want to cut back on sugar. By the end of the month, you are likely to have implemented a steady habit of cutting back on sugar and can carry that into the next month while focusing on a new goal to achieve.

Seek Positive Reinforcement

Tell your friends and family about the goals you plan to achieve this year. Sharing your successes and struggles with others will make your journey much more manageable and successful when you have people around you to support you and hold you accountable. You may also consider finding someone with similar goals as you to join you on your journey, such as a gym partner or a daily walking buddy. Support from others will go a long way especially when you find yourself in times of weakness.

Celebrate Your Successes

You don’t have to wait until you hit the very end of your goal to celebrate your success. Break your goal down into small, manageable timeframes. After each milestone, make sure to recognize how far you have come, and celebrate the changes you are making. This will motivate you even more to reach your next milestone. After all, changing behaviors and habits takes time, and sticking with it deserves to be celebrated at every milestone you achieve.

Learn From Your Experiences

Anytime you find yourself falling into old habits, think about what led you there. Maybe your goal is too big or unrealistic, this is an opportunity to adjust your goals to more attainable ones. If you find that it’s hard to stay consistent with your exercise goals during a busy work week, you can find time at work during breaks to go on walks or slip in an exercise like jump-roping or treadmill walking while watching TV. Just because you feel yourself falling back into old habits doesn’t mean you should give up. It is just a sign to reevaluate your goals and set yourself up for success.

Aim For Completion, Not Perfection

When it comes to completing your goals, it is better to do some of it than none of it. If you can only fit in 20 minutes of exercise even though your goal is to work out an hour every day, look at that as a victory for having completed the exercise for the day. Something is also better than nothing. Don’t be hard on yourself, and strive to do better the next day.

Photo by Unsplash

References

  1. “Making Your New Year’s Resolution Stick.” American Psychological Association, 10 Nov. 2019, www.apa.org/topics/new-year-resolutions.
  2. Harvard Health. “Seven Steps for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick.” Harvard Health, health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/seven-steps-for-making-your-new-years-resolutions-stick.
  3. “Better Nutrition in the New Year: Setting Yourself up for Success.” National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), www.nchpad.org/799/4181/Better~Nutrition~in~the~New~Year~~~Setting~Yourself~up~for~Success.
  4. Northwestern Medicine. “New Year, Better You: 5 Ways to Make a Healthy Change.” Northwestern Medicine, www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/new-year-better-you