December 8, 2023

Make this year the one you keep your resolutions.

New year, new you … right? If you’re like about 40 percent of Americans, you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions in your time. But chances are those New Year’s resolutions won’t be as successful as you’d like.

Most people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions for more than a few months. Don’t be discouraged by the low success rate, though. And don’t be discouraged if your resolutions seem to be getting off track. Stacey K. Kendrick, a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health, says it takes a least three months of consistently doing something to make it a routine, and even longer to make it a lifestyle change.

Kendrick offers these tips to help you create your yearly goals — and keep them.

What are some of the biggest obstacles people face with maintaining resolutions?

First and foremost, people tend to make unrealistic resolutions and then tend to fail with achieving them. Some of the specific obstacles people encounter vary, but can include family obligations, work, time, motivation and giving up too quickly because they think one failure means you failed for good.

Set a realistic goal that is achievable by breaking it into small steps that can be built on one by one.

For example, instead of saying that “I want to lose 20 pounds by my reunion in March,” it makes more sense to set small, specific, measurable and realistic goals each week, such as “I will pack a healthy lunch every day this week,” or “I will walk for 30 minutes after work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” or “I will identify three people and ask them to be my support system when I feel discouraged in December when unhealthy food is everywhere. If I get discouraged I will call one of them.”

It’s helpful to brainstorm what the obstacles to success might be.

Then you can plan ahead of time for dealing with obstacles when they come. And they always come. People often forget that setbacks are part of the journey toward making positive change; it does not mean you have failed. It just means you took a step back, and now you can readjust and keep going.

People often forget that setbacks are part of the journey toward making positive change; it does not mean you have failed.

For example, a common obstacle people cite with getting more physical activity is not having enough time. When making a plan to be more active, think about what will interfere with that commitment. If you know that you often get tied up late at work and end up missing the workout, think about doing an early-morning walk or finding ways to add activity into the day in other ways, like taking the stairs. Be flexible and know that just because you had a setback, you did not fail totally. Tomorrow is another day to start over!

Having a support system to help you be accountable, or add more fun to the routine helps.

It can be a friend, a family member close by or even far away that you can check in with. Or use a digital app or activity tracker.

Choose an activity you enjoy to keep your resolution.

If it is drudgery, you will not stick with it. Ask yourself whether you like outdoor activities. Do you like group activities or solitary pursuits? Do you like classes? Do you like to be competitive? Choose something you enjoy. Ideally have a variety of activities, some of which can be done on the fly if your schedule changes, such as walking.

Keep in mind that setbacks are part of the process of making change.

Change is often very hard. Very few people make up their minds to do something and then just do it permanently. Try not to get too discouraged, but get back on track as soon as possible. Remember that every day is a new day to get it right. Think about what caused you to get off track. How can it be different next time? Have affirmations in places where you will see them, such as in your car or on your mirror. Notes that say “Today is a new day” or “Moving makes me feel good” are effective reminders.

Be kind to yourself when making changes.

Pat yourself on the back when you succeed, and love and encourage yourself when you are less than perfect with your attempt to change.

Are you making a New Year’s resolution this year? Is this the year that you quit smoking? Here’s advice to consider as you form a strategy. If consistent exercise is your hurdle, we offer tips on how to ease into a workout routine.