The new year brings the promise of making a fresh start, giving you the chance to change and look for better ways to do things that didn’t pan out for you in the last year. All these are the reasons why many of us make new resolutions each year.
You’ve probably made your fair share of New Year’s resolutions. Like most people, you’ve likely also fallen off the wagon for most of them before the first quarter (or the first month) was up — especially when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle.
If you want to take another stab at reaching your health goals this year and to do better, it’s best to start from the top. This means setting better goals that will help you keep on track until the end of the year.
Find Your Motivation
The first thing you need in order to set better New Year’s health goals is to find your purpose. What drives you to improve your health? If you want to lose weight, what is motivating you to do so?
Your motivation can be anything. Whether it is to have more energy, to feel better about yourself, to fit into your old clothes, or to prevent health complications — all of these are valid reasons.
Knowing why you are motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle will not only serve as your inspiration throughout your journey but also as your guide when making your individual health goals.
Make SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym that commonly comes up in the business world regarding best practices for setting goals. It’s also one that you can easily use to set better health goals for the coming year.
Normally, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. With your health goals in mind though, it’s better to switch relevant with reliable.
Here’s how you can use the SMART approach in setting health goals:
- Specific: Be as clear and specific as you can with your goals. Avoid vague statements like “I will exercise more,” or “I will be more active.” Give more details instead. Goals like “I will go on 30-minute brisk walks each day before work,” or “I will work out at the gym every Wednesday and Saturday for 40 minutes,” are much better. They paint a clearer picture that makes it much easier for you to stay focused.
- Measurable: Being able to measure your goals helps you know how far you are from achieving them. This allows you to adjust what you’re doing in order to reach your goal. Additionally, seeing how much closer you are to your goal or how committed you are so far can add excitement and motivation to continue. Goals like “I will lose 10 pounds,” “I will exercise daily,” or “I will limit my daily calories to 2,400 maximum,” are measurable.
- Achievable: This means setting goals that are realistically attainable within the timeframe you gave yourself. Setting a goal that you will lose 30 lbs in three months is specific and measurable, but is it achievable based on what you can do? If you are not an active person, don’t have much time for the gym, or experience fatigue much more easily, it is better to lower your expectations.
- Reliable: Use reliable resources when you set New Year’s health goals. Avoid highly restrictive or fad diets that are proven to be ineffective in the long run. It’s better to depend on proven or reliable methods, like eating less fatty and sugary food, exercising daily, and adopting a better sleep schedule.
- Time-bound: Set deadlines for your goals. These deadlines will let you measure your progress. Give yourself enough time based on your habits to ensure your goals remain realistic. For example, losing 30 lbs in three weeks is time-bound but unrealistic, while losing 15 lbs in three months meets both criteria.
Take Things Slowly and Steady
You don’t have to cram all your health resolutions into January — or even within the first quarter of the year. Remember, you have a whole year ahead of you to reach your health goals. Trying to do everything all at once can be overwhelming, and you may end up quitting halfway through.
Start with setting one or two health goals each month. It’s better if the goals you set mesh well together, such as losing X amount of weight in a month and doing X amount of exercise daily. Even if you are only working towards a couple of health goals, you’ll be able to establish good, healthy habits that will help you with setting and meeting more goals in the future.
Have Visual Reminders
Visual reminders help you focus on your goal and keep you motivated. This can be something as simple as a picture of your target weight, a dress or other clothes you want to wear, or a beach vacation you want to slim down for.
You can also make a mood or motivation board filled with inspiring quotes, reminders, and photos. Even notes from your doctor recommending a healthier lifestyle to prevent health complications can work as a visual reminder.
Keep Moving Forward With Your Health Goals
When you set your health goals for the new year, give yourself some leeway. This means setting goals that account for occasional sidetracks. A momentary lapse is no reason to give up. You already know how challenging it can be to meet health resolutions, so preparing for these short lapses may actually keep you on track in the long run.
If you fall off your health resolution wagon, simply climb back on. Forgive yourself, steel your resolve to do better, and keep moving forward.