A Better Way to Do New Year’s Resolutions

12.29.20 |

At this point, we all know that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Years ago, as a society, we would make grand promises about what we would do differently in the year to come, and those promises were rarely kept. Today, New Year’s resolutions are something of a running joke, and in some ways that’s worse because if we do commit to a New Year’s resolution, we may automatically assume that we’ll fail.

I’ve written about this before, but if you missed it, here is the short version for why New Year’s resolutions fail: Sudden and radical lifestyle change is rarely sustainable.

If you go from a mostly sedentary lifestyle to trying to run five days a week, your old routine is likely to win the moment your bed is more tempting than your early-morning jogging alarm.

If you go from eating unhealthy foods to a strict crash diet, your cravings and your hunger will eventually overpower you.

If you go from being highly stressed and anxious to adopting an ultra-zen mindset, your stress response will overrun your emotions when your boss embarrasses you in a meeting. 

New Year’s resolutions oversimplify change and unfairly suggest that all a person needs in order to change is the desire to change. That’s simply untrue. Anyone who has ever eaten a pack of storebought cookies and felt shame and guilt with every bite knows this to be true. We often have the desire to change, but in the face of adversity or old ways take control.

It can leave you feeling powerless.

If you want to make a change and the timing happens to coincide with New Year’s, don’t let that deter you. Now is always the best time to begin your journey to optimal wellbeing!

Here’s how to turn your desire to change into a sustainable transformation:

  • Be clear on your “why.” For me, being present for my daughters is my why. If I don’t feel like getting my workout in for the day, I think of how exercise will give me more time to make memories with my children. Once you pick your why (or pick several), write it down somewhere and keep it nearby.
  • Start small. In our system, we use micro Habits of Health to change behavior, which is the idea of starting so small that failure is virtually impossible. Instead of running five days a week, start by adding 20 extra steps a day and gradually increase your count until you can do 10,000 steps a day.
  • Set smaller goals. Losing 50 pounds is a great goal, but it can also feel out of reach when times are hard. Instead, what if your goal was to lose 10 pounds or even 5 pounds? That should already feel more manageable, which means you are less likely to give up when things get tough.
  • Get support. Studies show that behavior support is the key to consistent success. Join a community of like-minded people and lean on a health coach to help you make the right choices and to help you navigate challenges.

2021 could be your best year yet, and it is possible for you to accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Start by avoiding the common pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions and give yourself more time to gradually create the life you envision for yourself. If you need a hand, the Habits of Health Community is here to help!