As a new year begins, many of us set out to improve our health and reshape our lives.
Maybe that means losing weight, starting a new fitness regimen or just focusing on building a better you in 2022 and beyond.
The possibilities are infinite, but they’re not always easily achievable.
What are some of the best ways to maintain your resolve—today, tomorrow and beyond?
A Corewell Health East doctor and a Corewell Health West psychologist shared their top tips for tapping into your inspiration and commitment.
SMART approach to resolutions
Be SMART about it, said Asha Shajahan, MD, medical director of community health at Corewell Health Beaumont Grosse Pointe Hospital and a physician at Corewell Health East.
“By SMART, I mean the acronym,” Dr. Shajahan said. “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based. That will keep you on task with your resolutions.”
Here’s what that means:
- Specific: Make your goals specific for more effective planning.
- Measurable: Define what evidence will prove you’re making progress and reevaluate when necessary.
- Attainable: Make sure you can reasonably accomplish your goal within a certain timeframe.
- Relevant: Your goals should align with your values and long-term objectives.
- Time-based: Set a realistic, ambitious end date for task prioritization and motivation.
“I would also add accountable,” Dr. Shajahan said. “Share your goal with someone to keep yourself accountable. A friend or spouse can help to keep you motivated. A walking buddy can keep you walking on those days you would rather not go out.”
“We can set goals throughout the year and not just in January,” she said. “Focus on intrinsic goals. We are more likely to sustain our motivation with goals that are important to us rather than what others tell us to do.”
Some great tips to help you stay motivated:
Think about why you are setting this goal for yourself.
As an example, if your goal is to exercise more often, understand why this is important to you. Your reasons may be to stay healthy, to be around longer for your kids, or simply to feel better about yourself.
Create a plan
When deciding on a goal, write it out—when, where and how you plan to develop this great new habit.
Make your goal enjoyable
It can be difficult to stay motivated if your goal feels like a chore. Think about how to make achieving your goal more fun. If you are spending time on a treadmill, for instance, listen to a podcast or watch a favorite TV show while exercising.
Think about what you want to do rather than what you want to stop. What would you like to add to your life, as opposed to depriving yourself of something?
To attain better health, for example, focus on adding more tasty fruits and vegetables to your plate, rather than thinking about the chips and cookies you might be missing.
If you are quitting smoking, think about the fun things you will do with the time and money you gain by not smoking.
Set realistic goals
Big goals can quickly feel overwhelming. Make your goals smaller, to help you achieve each one of them more easily. Progress builds motivation. Think about the smallest step you can take and divide your goal into achievable steps. This will help you maintain forward movement.
Measure your steps and focus on what you have accomplished, versus what lies ahead.
If your goal is to lose weight, tracking pounds isn’t always the best way to measure progress. Remember that working out builds muscle, which can increase your weight. But ultimately, you’re strengthening your body—and you’re building a good habit.
So track the time you spend working out, rather than numbers on the scale.
Plan rewards for your achievement steps. Rewarding success along the way helps keep you inspired to take up the next step.
Rewards can be anything, from a new dress after losing those first 5 pounds to a date night at the movies. Schedule a massage or do whatever makes you feel good about the hard work you’ve invested. It should feel like a reward.
Avoid all-or-nothing thinking
Focus your thinking on consistency. If you have kept your steps small and easy enough, remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. Even when something is small, it is still a step forward.
“Most of all, be kind to yourself,” Dr. Richards said. “Self-compassion is much more effective than shaming ourselves. Talk to yourself as you would talk to your friend.”
It helps to bring a friend along.
“Social support is important,” Dr. Richards said. “We are driven by our connections. When we have social support for our goals, we are much more likely to achieve those goals.”