I love being healthy, or at least trying to be every day, and get really excited when people make resolutions about their health. In fact, according to Google search data and a recent Marist Poll, Be a Better Person, Lose Weight and Get Healthy continue to be top resolutions, usually beating out Get Organized, Travel and Read More in the last few years. I’ve spent almost 30 years in the health and wellness industry, developing products to help people on their wellness journeys, so naturally, I love the continued resolve to get healthier and be better.
If you feel like you’re not able to make resolutions sticky though, you’re not alone. A recent report from U.S. News shows approximately 80% of us fail in our resolutions by now, and Fridays are the days when we're most likely to quit. That means only 2 out of 10 of us make it over 30 days into the new year. Those are tough odds! But here’s how you avoid that rut, or get out of it if you're there right now – don’t make extreme commitments. Extremes are hard to stick by, so instead, do something small for yourself every day, and make sure to celebrate these small victories. By making small intentions and embracing life’s daily chaos, we can ultimately focus on getting healthier for life.
Small Intentions, Not Extreme Commitments
Instead of extreme commitments and grand resolutions, imagine making small daily intentions. I’m all about introducing these small, daily habits in my own life, and steering clear of lofty or grand resolutions. According to B.J. Fogg, a behavioral psychologist at Stanford University, small habits with rewards are the key to creating long-term behavior change.1 So if you’ve never gone for a run in your life, instead of committing to running five days a week, resolve to just put on your tennis shoes and walk to your front door once a week. Chances are you’ll walk outside, and maybe even take a walk around the block. After that, you might find yourself walking, or running, a few blocks a week.
The reality is that we feel accomplished because we started with a small, attainable goal, and that feeling of accomplishment can help make that small goal grow into a larger goal, and become sticky. And we need to celebrate those small choices we make every day. Look at the day and your choices in smaller chunks. I enjoy a few pieces of candy in the afternoon — who can resist the office candy jar? But I also enjoy yoga, or taking the stairs in the same day. So, don’t beat yourself up over that one piece of candy. Balance that choice with taking the stairs to a meeting, eating a healthy dinner, or celebrating the fact that you made it to yoga that morning. Rather than thinking about all the shortcomings when we head to bed, let’s celebrate those small victories and be kind to ourselves.
Embrace the Chaos
Why embrace the chaos? There’s no way around it. Life throws a lot our way, and it’s important to keep a flexible mindset and celebrate our small achievements to help keep us moving forward. It helps if we keep our larger goals in mind, realize there’s more than one way to reach those goals, and understand that the only timeline we're on is our own. Each small step we take along the way gives us momentum, and this slight shift in mindset can bring renewed perspective to goal setting.
So many resolutions seem to revolve around things we don’t necessarily want to do or have decided to deny ourselves, instead of focusing on positive habits we can add to our lives to reach our goals. It’s hard to have a positive attitude if you’re hyper-focused on what you’re eliminating. At the start of each year, I imagine myself embracing the chaos of what’s to come, looking for the things I can do to help me improve each day that will fit realistically in the craziness of my life. Plus, research shows that resilience is built by working through challenging situations, appraising difficulties from more optimistic perspectives, which can help you view outcomes more positively and increase your satisfaction with life.2 And when it comes to happiness and life satisfaction, positive emotions are very important as they are a “powerful source of growth and change.”2
How we face the challenges, limitations and overall craziness of our modern lives matters. We can help ourselves by being positive and embracing the chaos, and working through realistic ways to make lasting, healthy changes for life.
Get Healthier for Life
Even in the next few minutes you could do something small and achievable for your health and celebrate your efforts, like drink a glass of water or sneak in some stretches. Eventually, those small changes will become positive habits. They’ll create momentum to help you be more successful in accomplishing your goals well beyond the first 30 days of the year.
We’re all on our own wellness journeys, which can be filled with unexpected bumps and detours along the way. We all take a few steps forward and backward each day. It’s so vital to celebrate the journey we're on and realize we try our best to do what’s good for us. If we take small, intentional steps each day with positive thoughts and empathy for ourselves, we’ll be more likely to make those small, healthy habits a part of our regular wellness routines. So, celebrate your journey and willingness to keep trying — and know that I’m right there with you, trying and celebrating too.
So, what are your small intentions for 2018? How will you celebrate your small victories? By forgoing extreme commitments, setting small intentions and embracing the chaos, you can reshape the way you think about resolutions and know you’re doing your best to get healthier for life all year long.
Katherine C. Doyle, also known as Katie, has more than 28 years of experience leading and advising consumer, health and wellness companies. She is passionate about helping people find wellness and vitality at any age and cutting through all the clutter and chaos. She enjoys travel adventures with her husband and three children, marathon and triathlon running, and yoga, plus giving back to her community through leadership and mentoring opportunities.
1B.J. Fogg, PhD. “Forget Big Change, Start with Tiny Habit: B.J. Fogg Tedx Fremont.” December 5, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdKUJxjn-R8
2Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 9(3), 361–368. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0015952
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.