Nearly half of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution, yet only 8 percent of them achieve what they’ve resolved, according to a University of Scranton study.
The problem is many people make resolutions that are too vague or unrealistic, said Dr. Nicole Calvillo, who practices family medicine at Kaiser Permanente’s Clovis Medical Offices.
“One of the things I always tell my patients is to be more concrete with their goals,” she said.
For instance, instead of “eat healthier,” one should resolve to add a vegetable to dinner each night, swap soda for water or take a healthy lunch to work rather than eat out.
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The also shouldn’t bite off more than they can chew.
“People will try to focus on everything all at once, like stop drinking alcohol, cut out fast food and exercise five days a week,” she explained. “If you didn’t do that before, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to do that come January 1.”
Instead, resolutioners should use the baby step approach to reaching goals.
“If someone wants to stop eating fast food, but their current habit is to eat fast food five days a week, then it’s not going to happen,” Calvillo said. “Or it’ll happen for a week and then they’ll lose interest. So setting a realistic goal is helpful because once they achieve that goal they feel good about it and it promotes more change after that. If they switch out one fast food lunch a week, they can go to two and then three. Eventually it becomes more of a habit.”
Be realistic about exercise goals as well, Calvillo said.
“What kind of exercise can you see yourself doing? If you can’t see yourself in a gym, don’t go out and buy a gym membership,” she said.
Better yet, make exercise an activity for the whole family by walking or biking together, or taking a trip to a local park, Calvillo suggested.
Coming up with a resolution to help your mental health is just as important as thinking about your physical health, Calvillo said. These resolutions should also be taken in small bites.
“Try meditating for one minute,” Calvillo said. “Really, it’s just sitting there and trying to be aware of your breathing and clearing your mind. Deep breathing for a minute can help relieve some stress. Start slow and build up on it.”
Those who have resolved to get more sleep — Calvillo recommends at least 7 hours per night — should turn off the television, tablets and cell phones one hour prior to bedtime, she said.
“You can make up sleep on the weekends,” Calvillo said. “But it’s a sign that if you’re chronically sleep deprived, there’s too much stuff going on or you’re not making it a priority.”