Healthy Happy Life

5 Ways to Maintain Healthy Habits in the New Year

Brought to you by Nod

5 Ways to Maintain Healthy Habits in the New Year

Presented by Amber Long; Executive Director of Wellness & Recreation Services

Every year, droves of people set out with the intention to make this year their most healthy year yet. Goals are set with the best of intention, especially after many of us indulge a little more than usual during the holiday season. Unfortunately, about 80% of New Years’ resolution habits have fallen short by Valentines’ Day. But why? What can we do to maintain our healthy habits for the long haul?

1. Focus on habits rather than outcomes. Enjoy the process. Celebrate the actual habit, like drinking 64 oz. of water per day, walking 10,000 steps per day, or reading for enjoyment 30 minutes per week. These habits may have some wonderful outcomes, like reducing stress or improving fitness, and the habit is much easier to quantify and celebrate when you complete the behavior. This also helps build intrinsic motivation and enjoyment rather than focusing on the aesthetic outcome of healthy habits.

2. Get connected. Share your goals with friends and family members. Telling someone about your intentions is a powerful accountability measure. Once you verbally commit to your plans, you will likely be motivated to stick to what you said.  That does not mean you have to post every healthy meal you eat as proof on social media but enlist the support of the people you engage with most. Who knows, your healthy habit quest may inspire someone else to join you!

3. Use the tools. There is a plethora of apps, websites, tracking tools, and professionals available to help you navigate the path to your most healthy self. Right now, during the pandemic, many of those tools are offered for free or at a greatly reduced price. Confusion is a common barrier to maintaining healthy habits. How and when should I eat, sleep, play, exercise? Remove confusion by enlisting in a plan like a couch to 5k, a two-week meditation challenge, or even Wellness & Recreation Services Virtual 30-Day Challenge (coming February 2021). When there is a clear wellness plan it will be easier to just do it.  If you prefer more of a 1:1 approach, enlist the help of a professional, like a wellness coach. Consider it an investment in yourself.  You deserve it. 

4. Be real. Set goals that you can achieve. Make your goals SMART.  A smart goal will be something you can easily understand and work towards. Example: I will spend 10 minutes per day, three times a week, for one month writing a one-paragraph gratitude journal, to increase my feelings of positivity and joy. You can make your own SMART goals by making them:

  • Specific:  Specify exactly what you want to achieve and write it down. No, really, write it down. The simple act of committing to paper will give you a better chance to succeed.
  • Measurable: Can you definitively say yes, I achieved this, or no, I did not? Can you measure it?
  • Attainable: Try to set small, easily achievable goals. Each small win serves as a building block to work towards a larger goal.  You will build confidence and enjoy the process more when goals are achievable.
  • Realistic: Is this something you can devote time and energy to right now?  Does the plan of action lead to the achievement of this specific goal?  It’s ok to have large long-term goals, just break them down to smaller, more realistic short-term goals.
  • Time-bound: Set a time frame for measurement.  Determine how many days or minutes per week or month you will complete your activity. 

5. Give yourself some grace. We are navigating a pandemic. There may be days where life throws you a curveball and your best-laid plans to complete your healthy habits are de-railed. This is true of any season of life. Engage in personal compassion. It is ok to miss a day or a week.  Start back again, at a place where you can feel successful.  After a lapse, do not focus on starting back exactly where you left off. Allow your body and your mind to gradually ease back into the habit. Again, small successes are important. Wellness is a lifestyle, which allows us to shift our habits at any time to feel better.

These simple tips can help you make any resolution or goal a long-term habit. Change is hard, it takes a while for a new habit to take hold. Try to stay consistent for at least 60 days, past Valentines’ Day, and you will see that your habit has become an enjoyable part of your lifestyle.

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