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Resolution solutions

10 ways to keep your New Year's promises.

Article Author: Beth Stambaugh

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Sticky notes with resolutions: "Lose weight," "Help others," "Quit Smoking."

Chances are you made a resolution or two to start the year off in the right direction. But if you’re like most people, your resolve may not hold up.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is about 80%, with most people falling off the wagon by February.

Resolutions usually focus on healthy habits – vowing to eat better, lose weight, exercise, limit alcohol, or quit smoking are the most common. Yet year after year, many of us find ourselves starting all over again.

Why is it so hard to keep New Year’s resolutions?

“By definition, a ‘resolution’ is an all-or-nothing proposition,” said Stefanie Schwartz, PhD, a psychologist with Baptist Behavioral Health. “Either you do something or you don’t.”

Dr. Schwartz suggests setting small, attainable goals rather than making large pass-fail resolutions.

“For example, instead of resolving to exercise more, make a goal that’s specific, like exercising for 30 minutes three times a week,” she said. “Trying to change habits and behavior is hard for everyone. Change is a process – you can’t just flip a switch. Rather than thinking of it as something you must do every day, look at it as making measurable progress toward your goal.”

Here are 10 resolution solutions from Dr. Schwartz to help make 2021 your year:

  1. Be “SMART.” Make your goal Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Rather than a vague goal, like “eat healthier,” use the SMART method to create a more definable and measurable goal.

  2. Set yourself up for success. Small behavioral changes can yield big results. If your goal is to exercise more, put your gym shoes and clothes where you will see them. If your goal is to eat better, place healthy snacks where you will see them first – on the first row of the fridge or at the front of the cabinet. Put unhealthy snacks out of reach so it’s harder to get to them.

  3. Make a plan. Some people find writing out a course of action to be motivating. Break your goal down into bite-sized pieces that don’t seem daunting. For instance, first buy new running shoes, then walk/run for 10 minutes, increase it to 15 minutes, and so on.

  4. Give yourself some grace. Setbacks happen. Remember, it’s not all or nothing. You can still get back on course even if you didn’t stick to your plan for a day or two. Don’t beat yourself up.

  5. Grab a friend. You may not feel comfortable going to the gym these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t tough it out on your own – get an accountability partner to go with you on a socially distanced run or walk.

  6. Celebrate success milestones, big or small. By tracking your goals, you can see your incremental progress along the way. Maybe you aren’t where you want to be yet, but you’ve already made great progress. No victory is too small to rejoice in!

  7. Have a contingency plan. Things will come up. It will rain, your kid will get sick, or you may have to work late. Have an alternate plan in place – if you can’t make it to the gym, try a YouTube workout or a virtual workout. (The First Coast Y has a myriad of virtual classes you can do from home.)

  8. Take advantage of technology to keep you on track. There are a wealth of phone apps to help you succeed in everything from smoking cessation to limiting alcohol. Schedule your workouts on your phone calendar so you’ll be reminded of your commitment, or set your alarm when it’s time to go for a walk.

  9. Find your motivation. Consider why you’re making a change. If the reason is to please your partner or follow your doctor’s advice, you’re less likely to succeed than if you’re doing it for yourself. So, make the reason about you: “I am quitting smoking so I can live a longer and healthier life,” rather than, “I am quitting because my wife can’t stand the smell of smoke.”

  10. Consider the timing. There’s nothing magic about January 1. You can start a new healthy habit or set new goals when the time is right for you.


If you need help sticking to your health and wellness goals, Baptist Health Y Healthy Living Centers have experts to guide you along the way.

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