6 Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Health Resolutions

Posted by Nicole on December 9

Do you have New Year’s resolutions for your health? Maybe you plan to go on a diet, stick with an exercise schedule, or set aside more time each week for regular self-care. Whatever the case might be, we all know how hard it can be to keep New Year’s resolutions. But many people successfully do so. The tips below should help you to join them.

1. Set goals that are concrete and realistic.

One way New Year’s resolutions can go awry is if they are vague or unrealistic. Making a resolution without making it concrete and realistic is pretty much setting yourself up for failure.

A recommendation that can help you to make more achievable New Year’s resolutions is to use the SMART goal method. When your goals are SMART, they are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Timely

So, for example, a resolution that is not SMART is, “I will work out more this year.” One that is SMART is, “Two hours a week, I will go walking, swimming or cycling if the weather permits. If it does not, I will do indoor aerobics.”

2. Try making just one resolution.

It is easy to end up in over your head when you make New Year’s resolutions. You might have half a dozen different goals you want to try to achieve during the upcoming year. So, you try making resolutions for all of them. But then, you discover it is simply more than you can handle. You spread your efforts too thin, and nothing gets accomplished.

If this sounds like something you have been through in the past, one approach that might work better is to make one and only one New Year’s resolution for the upcoming year. Accomplishing one thing may not sound as ambitious as tackling half a dozen different health goals, but it is certainly better than accomplishing none of them.

3. Make sure you pick a resolution you are actually motivated to keep.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions with your own goals in mind, or other peoples’ expectations?

Maybe your mother is always telling you to lose weight, so you set a resolution to diet last year. But you were happy with your weight, so you failed the resolution. You had no motivation to follow through and put in all that effort.

You will have more luck sticking with your resolutions if you make them for you. Perhaps, for example, your mother is still pressuring you this year to go on a diet—but what you really want to do is make more time for self-care and mental wellness.

Since your mental health is very important to you in this scenario, if you make a New Year’s resolution related to that, you will be more likely to succeed. You may also feel better about yourself since you are doing something that suits you, rather than planning your life around someone else.

4. Remove potential obstacles from your path.

If you need to make a New Year’s resolution about something, chances are good there are some obstacles standing in your way. Otherwise, it would be easy, and no resolution would be necessary.

What you may want to do is try and identify those obstacles before moving forward. That way, you can make specific plans for how you will navigate around them. By making advance preparations, they will cause you fewer problems when they crop up.

Be aware that some of the most challenging obstacles you can encounter when trying to keep your New Year’s health resolutions are psychological. Identify the maladaptive scripts that prevent you from success, and look for ways to deactivate those scripts.

5. Commit to not getting down on yourself.

Think back to times in the past your New Year’s resolutions have failed. What did you tell yourself in the aftermath of those failures? Did you think awful things about yourself, like that you are incapable of keeping your resolutions, and destined to fail everything you attempt?

Thoughts like these do nothing but keep you stewing in your own shame. They do not help you change or grow. How can you do either if you believe that you never will? You will just keep reliving the same story, because that is the plan, even if only in your unconscious.

But you can make a different plan, a better plan. You can validate yourself by reminding yourself of everything you have accomplished. You can focus on your strengths, and you can give yourself permission to make mistakes and try again without self-contempt. You can tell yourself a different story, and make that story come true. 

6. Give yourself rewards.

Another way you can more easily keep your New Year’s resolutions is to make them even more worth your while by rewarding yourself along the way.

Keeping up with a new diet, exercise program, or other health routine isn’t easy! You deserve some recognition for your hard work. Plus, even though health resolutions have a practical payoff, sometimes a payoff that is fun is more motivating.

A reward can be anything you choose, and you can give yourself a reward as often as you want. Some people may find it easier to stay on target if they only reward themselves after they have stuck to their health resolutions for a really long time. But others might find it easier to persevere if they keep rewarding themselves week by week.

You do not always have to make the rewards time-based either. You could make them milestone-based. Say you are dieting to lose weight. You could reward yourself every time you lose five pounds.

On the other hand, if you are dieting for other reasons (i.e. for a health condition or for preventative wellness), you might not have a way of marking specific milestones. In that case, just giving yourself rewards after sticking with your resolutions for a certain length of time makes more sense.

You Can Achieve Your New Year’s Health Resolutions

There is no denying that following through on New Year’s resolutions can be a challenge. But if you believe in yourself, set realistic goals, and find ways to stay motivated and positive, you can take steps this upcoming year to improve or maintain your health.