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For many of us, the new year represents an opportunity for a fresh start — a chance to pivot towards healthier habits and ambitious goals. However, the stereotypical resolutions often revolve around short-lived fads or drastic changes that can be tough to maintain. But what if, this time around, we approached our resolutions differently? What if we prioritized setting resolutions that focus on fostering genuine well-being and cultivating healthier lifestyles? As we dive into 2024, let’s set healthy New Year’s resolutions to manifest not just a successful year but also a more fulfilling and sustainable life.

How to Set Healthy New Year’s Resolutions That Actually Work

healthy new year's resolutionsDespite the diversity you see across the 50 states, a lot of Americans have one thing in common: We love setting New Year’s resolutions…and we all fail at keeping them.

According to a national survey, nearly 40% of Americans say they like to set a goal or resolution each year, reports Forbes Health. The publication goes on to add:

Failing at New Year’s resolutions is so common that there’s even a slew of (unofficial) dates commemorating such failures—some sources cite “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” as January 17 while others denote the second Friday in January as “Quitter’s Day.”

The Forbes Health/One Poll survey found that the average resolution lasts just 3.74 months. Only 8% of respondents tend to stick with their goals for one month, while 22% last two months, 22% last three months and 13% last four months.

A lot of this comes down to psychology.

Why We Often Fail at Achieving Our Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

Understanding these challenges can help us approach resolutions in a more sustainable and effective way, focusing on realistic goals, specific plans, and a supportive environment conducive to change.

One of the top reasons we fail to maintain our goals for the new year is unrealistic expectations or lack of specificity:

  • Setting overly ambitious or unrealistic goals can set us up for failure. When resolutions are too extreme or unattainable within a reasonable timeframe, it’s easy to lose motivation.
  • Vague resolutions like “exercise more” or “eat healthier” lack clear direction. Without specific, actionable steps, it’s challenging to track progress or know where to begin.

These often go hand-in-hand with poor planning and goal setting. Not having a plan in place can lead to faltering, and a lack of concrete steps or milestones makes it harder to measure progress and stay committed.

“Change can be daunting,” explains mental health educator Shainna Ali, PhD. “It may seem as though you are making a sharp turn to adapt to a path paved with your goals. You may not know where to start, however, you may also be facing pressured to hurry up and do so. The pressure surrounding you may come from your environment, culture, loved ones, and even from yourself. Over time, this pressure may make it seem as though the walls are beginning to close in on you. Even if you surface from the pressure, you may not know where the road begins. Further, even if you do know where the journey starts, looking at the long road ahead may cause you to feel as though it’s too much, too soon. These factors may cause you to quit before you even start.”

A Proven Way to Set Healthy New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

Creating New Year’s resolutions that stick involves a thoughtful approach. Before you even begin, take time to reflect on what you genuinely want to change or achieve. Focus on a few key resolutions rather than overwhelming yourself with numerous goals, and prioritize what’s most important to you.

Then, use the SMART acronym and ensure your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

This framework helps create clear, actionable goals that are easier to track and achieve. “For your SMART Resolutions, the most important letter is ‘S’,” says Carlos Alós-Ferrer, PhD, a psychoeconomics professor who studies human decision-making. “Be specific. Losing weight or being nicer to people are not specific enough. How exactly are you going to do that? ‘I will skip lunch on Mondays’ or ‘I will eat salad for dinner on Fridays’ are specific. When you think about it, you will find that you have little difficulty translating your goals and resolutions into specific action plans because this is the deliberative part of your brain speaking.”

Not sure where to start? Need inspiration for healthy goals for the new year? We’ve created a handy list of ideas to get you started, and each goal emphasizes the S in SMART:

  • Commit to drinking a certain amount of water every day, like filling and finishing a reusable water bottle twice a day.
  • Start your day with a five-minute stretching routine to wake up your body and improve flexibility.
  • Aim to include a serving of fruits or vegetables in every meal or as a snack, focusing on incorporating more nutrients into your diet.
  • Take short, five to ten-minute walks throughout your workday or after meals to boost circulation and clear your mind.
  • Spend a few minutes each day jotting down thoughts, gratitude, or reflections to promote mental clarity and self-awareness.
  • Dedicate a specific timeframe each day to disconnect from screens, allowing yourself to unwind without digital distractions.
  • Challenge yourself to explore and cook one new healthy recipe each week to diversify your meals and cooking skills. We offer dozens of healthy recipes for free in our recipe library!

Once you have your SMART goal:

  • Break down your resolution into smaller, actionable steps. Create a detailed plan outlining how you’ll achieve each step, making it easier to follow through.
  • Share your resolutions with a friend, family member, or join a community with similar goals. Accountability partners or support systems can keep you motivated and on track.
  • Understand that setbacks happen, and it’s okay. Don’t let minor setbacks derail your progress. Embrace flexibility and learn from any challenges you encounter.
  • Keep track of your progress regularly. Celebrate small victories along the way to stay motivated and reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Periodically reassess your resolutions. If necessary, adjust your goals or action plan based on what’s working and what isn’t. Flexibility is key to long-term success.

Last but not least, practice self-compassion through this whole process. Change takes time, and it’s okay to experience bumps along the road. Don’t let an occasional setback make you give up on your healthy New Year’s resolutions — simply assess how it happened, and consider ways to guard against it in the future as you work through each month of 2024!

References:

  • https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/modern-mentality/201812/why-new-years-resolutions-fail
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/decisions-and-the-brain/202212/the-psychology-behind-new-years-resolutions-that-work