It’s almost the new year. It’s time to put cap on 2016 and look ahead to what you’d like to accomplish in 2017. But New Year’s resolutions can seem daunting. They’re often huge goals that might not be clearly defined. Tackling a large goal all at once is overwhelming, which is probably why resolutions have such a bad reputation. If you really want to change something in your life, like your health, you should start with one simple thing and focus on that. Small victories will build momentum toward your larger, long-term goal.
You mean goals like exercising more, or eating healthy foods more often?
Those are good ideas, but for change to happen, you should be more specific. For instance, set a goal to walk for 10 minutes a day. If you do that every day for a week, you will have walked for an hour and 10 minutes. Slowly increase your daily time until you’re walking for 30 minutes a day, and you’ll easily surpass the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity a week.
Setting goals is difficult. What are some tips to help people succeed?
Set a simple goal that is easy to measure. Decide on one thing – if you focus on just one thing, you won’t be using up all of your willpower managing several changes and will be more successful. Think in terms of small, incremental changes to your daily behavior. Smoke five fewer cigarettes a day. Eat more fruits and vegetables and lean protein so you feel fuller for longer. Make an appointment for a yearly checkup with your doctor. Allow yourself chocolate only after dinner. After you’ve mastered that one thing, you can go on to the next thing on the way to your larger goal. Small steps add up to big rewards.
If you could set just one goal for the new year, what should it be?
If you’re a tobacco user then I would suggest you make a plan to quit. That is the single best thing you can do for your health, and the benefits begin immediately. The Department of Health and Welfare has two options to help: Call the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (which is 1-800-784-8669) and talk to expert coaches, or visit www.Quitnow.net/idaho. If you sign up, you can get free nicotine replacement therapy products, including patches, gum or lozenges.
What about for the rest of us who don’t smoke?
Then I would suggest making a plan to be active daily, even if you start off with just 10 minutes a day. You’ll be healthier and happier because physical activity affects our moods as well as our waistlines. Walk off your stress and anger, and your energy will increase. You don’t have to take on these changes alone. Finding a colleague, friend, or family member with similar health goals who is willing to walk with you makes you more accountable and increases the likelihood that you will stick to your daily goal.
How should we track our progress?
It takes 4-6 weeks for a behavior to become a habit, so tracking is important. You can log activity on a calendar so you can easily see how you’re doing. Technology also provides some excellent and convenient tracking tools. Apps for your phone allow you to count calories and track workouts and even remind you to take a break and just breathe to reduce stress.
Making your health a priority doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you miss your fruit for breakfast, add something healthy to lunch. If you can’t squeeze in a walk at work, walk when you get home or the next day. Don’t get discouraged – and don’t give up.
(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Dec. 27.)