Creating Healthy Change with the New Year
New Year’s Resolutions
It’s a tradition that has existed for centuries, if not longer, where people sit down to reflect on the current state of their lives and make plans for how they’d like to improve. The start of the New Year serves as a “reset point” for people wanting to make changes. Not only does it make it easy to calculate the longevity of your new change, but it can serve as an “anchor” of significance. Anchors can be great tools for making positive change. Other examples could be the new kid in town starting over fresh at a different high school, or someone who tries eating healthier now that they’ve started a brand new job with an onsite gym. However, it’s important to remember that anchors can’t and shouldn’t hold you back from making changes if you realize that you want or need to get started sooner rather than later.
The list of potential topics for New Year’s Resolutions could be endless but one major factor will always be present. The person’s belief in their ability to succeed will be the driving force behind their motivation and self-discipline to stay the course and solidify their new habits. Using any of these strategies and tips can play a big role in organizing your efforts and staying on track.
Strategies and Tips - My Top Picks
*Consider examples of eating healthier, exercising more, and quitting smoking for these tips and strategies*
Pick a behavior change that you have full control over
A big factor in being successful will be the ability to have control over the behavior change in question. Some actions are entirely up to us such as what we choose to eat or do with our free time. Other scenarios such as getting stuck in traffic, missing a flight, or working late can be influenced by outside factors. When you set a goal it’s important to understand what level of control you have over the action and the outcome. Making sure you’re in the driver’s seat ensures you have the best chance of reaching your destination.
Limiting sugar intake for yourself vs. limiting sugar intake for the entire family.
Exercise a minimum of 2-3 times per week vs. exercise 7 times per week with strict guidelines.
Limiting how often you purchase tobacco products vs. Buying tobacco products every time they go on sale.
Do the research
“Knowledge is a key predictor (or at least precursor) of change”. Understand what’s involved in the goal you’re aiming for and make sure that your plan for success accounts for all of the potential obstacles you might encounter.
Finding convenient meal prepping strategies that match your goals.
Finding convenient exercise programs that match your goals..
Researching smoking cessation medications and resources.
Controlling the Environment
Trying to make changes with the same distractions and temptations around you now can make a goal even more challenging than before. We can help ourselves by ensuring that we benefit from our surroundings. Eliminating distractions and temptations can prevent us from making a poor choice in a moment of weakness.
Buy healthier snack alternatives at the grocery store.
Unplug your video game console when you’re not playing it.
Socialize indoors where you’re more likely to avoid smoking in a restaurant or friend’s home.
Make journaling and note-taking a regular part of your process each day. It doesn’t matter if your goals are to eat healthier, exercise more, stop smoking, or to do something else entirely. Being able to reflect on your notes and thoughts from previous moments where you fell short or found success can help you identify patterns to continue progress or to encourage yourself by seeing just how far you’ve come.
Carry a food journal of your meals, fluids, and snacks with notes on your choices at the time.
Keep an exercise log of your workouts (date, type, duration, performance).
Journal your thoughts each morning on your goals for your cigarette smoking and each night on your success, failures, experiences.
Build on success with small & attainable goals
It’s important to have long-term goals that give us direction and something to strive for. It’s equally important to have short-term goals that are easier to reach and remind us that we are getting closer to our end result even when it’s not always so easy to see. Setting one large farsighted goal could make it easier to get discouraged about our ability to achieve the success we want.
Eat 1 vegetarian meal per week for 1 month.
Exercise 2 times per week for 1 month.
Smoke 3 fewer cigarettes each day for 1 month.
HEALTH COACHING & Helping Relationships
Change requires support and helping relationships are proven to increase a person’s chances for success. Friends and family members are the people who will understand your desire to change and have the most to gain from encouraging you and seeing you happy with your success. Utilize the people closest to you for moments when you feel less hopeful or unsure of your ability to succeed.
Health Coaches can help in the same way by building a relationship to better understand the client and the importance of their goals. It can casually be referred to as “zooming out” and getting a “SSOE - second set of eyes” for the client and using their skills to help them achieve success through education, planning, and creating accountability for their actions.
Personal Thoughts & Suggestions
Writing down goals and displaying them at work and/or home is a great way to organize your thoughts and create accountability. Receiving consistent reminders throughout the day with a sticky note at your desk or a checklist on the fridge helps us keep our future self on track during moments when work and life will undoubtedly get busy and distract us.
Markerboards and chalkboards at home.
Sticky notes at your desk.
Make your phone wallpaper a written statement or reminder.
Picking one behavior change at a time
Some strategies suggest choosing only one change at a time but another strategy could be creating multiple goals (within reason) as long as it promotes staying motivated and successful. Picking one goal could create an “all your eggs in one basket” effect. We can’t expect to be perfect each day and moments of victory or relapse would result in being either 100% successful or 100% unsuccessful on any given day. Picking multiple goals is especially helpful when you consider 1 goal as a “subtraction” and the other goal as an “addition”.
Stop eating fast food for lunch AND Increase exercise frequency.
Smoke fewer cigarettes each day AND Drink more water each day.
“Behavior Change Models.” Behavioral Change Models, https://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/mph-modules/sb/behavioralchangetheories/BehavioralChangeTheories_print.html.
“9 Proven Strategies to Help You Change Problematic Behaviors.” Psychologytoday.com, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-recovery-coach/201801/9-proven-strategies-help-you-change-problematic-behaviors.
Jarreau, Paige Brown. “10 Science-Backed Tips to Making a Health Behavior Change That Sticks.” Medium, Life and Tech @ LifeOmic, 11 Apr. 2018, https://medium.com/lifeomic/10-science-backed-tips-to-making-a-health-behavior-change-that-sticks-8655c3bbde50.