New Year’s resolutions are more easily made than kept, but there are ways to turn them into lifelong habits, a psychologist says.
“Everyone is motivated when they first decide to make a New Year’s resolution,” Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a university news release. “The problem is that you can ride the wave of motivation for only a short while. If you want to stick with your resolution, you’d better make it a habit.”
Klapow advises those making New Year’s resolutions to follow the “S.M.A.R.T.” system, which includes the following five steps:
- Set specific goals. The more specific the resolutions, the more likely they will be followed. Rather than make general promises to eat better or exercise more, make a resolution to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily or walk 30 minutes each day.
- Monitor your actions. Keep track of your goals and monitor your progress. If you’ve resolved to exercise more, mark each workout on your calendar in a visible place in your home.
- Arrange for success. For you to meet your goals, you need to eliminate any barriers preventing you from reaching them. If you want to eat less sugar, remove sweet treats from your home. If you want to make it to the gym every morning, place a packed gym bag by your door so it’s ready to go.
- Recruit a support team. You’re more likely to stick to your resolutions if you have the support of others. Let your friends and family members know about your plans, so they can help you attain your goals. If you want to exercise more, a workout partner can also help you stay on track.
- Treat yourself. Reward yourself for sticking to your resolutions. Once they’ve become a habit, enjoy a movie, fun outing or a healthy treat to allow you to feel good about your success.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides tips on how to improve your health in the new year.