From our collaborators at Johns Hopkins Medicine | Resolution reboot: 8 tips to thrive in 2018

Forget resolutions. Plan to succeed with these guidelines

How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution and abandoned it by February? If so, you have plenty of company: eight out of 10 people break their resolutions within a month. Whether it is exercising more, changing your diet or quitting smoking, why do resolutions fail? Much of the difficulty comes from not identifying potential obstacles or barriers to success. Watch the video below and scroll down for helpful tips on creating a plan to thrive in the new year:

Remind yourself of the “why”.

People have different reasons for changing a behaviour. For example, if your resolution is to exercise, beyond the general goals of getting fit, losing weight or lowering blood pressure, getting into shape may let you participate in activities with your children or be around to see a grandchild grow up. Try to envision the specific benefits of your particular goal this year and what it can do for you.

Look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Besides the “why”, keep in mind that many of the benefits of behaviour change do not appear immediately. Drinking, eating and smoking are activities that make you feel good and help satisfy what is often a physical craving. Yet when breaking these bad habits, there is no immediate sense of satisfaction. It takes months rather than days to see the benefits from eating healthier or abstaining from alcohol or smoking.  By realizing that health benefits will accrue over time, you will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel, where improved health waits for you.

Avoid tempting environments.

If you always smoke, drink or eat at a specific time or place, avoid these places and find something else to do at that time. For example, watch the game at home instead of going to the sports bar, or reward yourself with a new type of non-alcoholic beverage or healthy appetizer.

Be honest with yourself.

It is easy to fool yourself into thinking that you are in control of bad habits. Sometimes you cover up the facts by saying that you will just have one drink, one cigarette or that a broken cookie has no calories. Regrettably, the time between the drinks, cigarettes and food gets shorter and shorter, and soon your resolution is broken. If you have an occasional lapse, it’s better to acknowledge the setback.

Stay focused despite an occasional slip-up.

This is a follow up to being honest with yourself. If you find yourself drinking, smoking or eating too much, accept the fact that you slipped and pick up again with your resolve to change. It may also help to recognize what factors or mindset contributed to the setback to be better prepared if faced with a similar situation again.

Talk to a friend.

Many of your family members and friends will support a change in behaviour at the beginning. Over time, however, that support may fade and you may have to face the problems alone. That’s where a health coach comes in; to provide specific guidance for behaviour change and also for positive social support. Willpower only takes you so far. You need a strong support network and a solid game plan to achieve your goals.

Avoid negative situations.

Some people close to you may not want you to change because your new behaviour would cause them to acknowledge their own unhealthy behaviours. For example, a spouse who is a problem drinker still brings liquor into the house when you are cutting back, or, if you are trying to lose weight, an office worker still puts a big jar of candy on their desk next to yours. Recognize the environments that are unsupportive to your new goals and choose situations that will back you up instead of pull you down.

Stay around positive people.

Though some people close to you may want you to change, others may not. They may tempt you into breaking your resolutions, perhaps because they are struggling to keep their own. Choosing people who support you and lift you up is a smart strategy to stay on course in the new year. Staying away from people who have a negative influence makes it possible to spend more quality time with friends who are aligned to your goals and mindset.

Content courtesy of Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The content was reproduced with permission of the Office of Marketing and Communications for Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Additional reuse and reprinting is not allowed. The information aims to educate readers and is not a substitute for consultation with a physician.

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