Close to half of all Americans make New Year's resolutions each year, with many resolving to lose weight or improve their fitness and health. However, only 8 percent of us are actually successful in achieving our resolutions, according to the results of a University of Scranton study.
"The resolutions that are not reached are often a result of setting unrealistic goals," says Michelle Milles, a health and wellness coach and behavior change specialist for Sharp Health Plan's Best Health team. "Because it is often natural and even ingrained in us to resist change, working on improbable goals sets us up for failure, rather than success."
Milles recommends that instead of making far-reaching resolutions, we should take small steps toward improving our overall health and wellness.
"When a small step is taken or simple goal achieved, it can lead to greater self-efficacy," she says. "Knowing we have conquered a long-time habit or maintained a goal can only contribute to future successes."
So rather than resolving to completely transform our lives, Milles suggests we look at less extreme changes that will not only improve one area, but also provide natural "bonus benefits" that can create a foundation for continued good health and wellness.
Some simple goals that can lead to improvements in all areas of your life include the following:
"If you can master these basic areas of health, then the natural consequence will be bonus benefits," Milles says. "For example, getting more sleep can contribute to improved productivity at work. Eating healthy and exercising regularly will most likely lead to weight loss or weight maintenance."
Milles recommends the following three tips to reach and maintain your goals:
Set small, achievable goals.
Depending on where you are on your journey toward better health and wellness, setting small goals that are within reach will be more effective. For example, if you are just beginning to exercise, resolving to do some form of exercise each day is a great start. If you already exercise and are in the "maintenance phase" of your goal, challenge yourself by setting the bar slightly higher. For example, if you are a regular runner, resolve to participate in a 10K race.
Stress is inevitable. However, there are things we can do to reduce the amount of stress in our lives as well as control how we respond to it. One of the best things we can do to manage stress is to practice greater self-care. If we know a stressful situation or "trigger" is coming up, we can put systems in place that will help us stay on track with our goals. For example, a few minutes spent meal planning for the week can help us avoid having to eat out and be tempted by poor meal choices.
Use available tools and support systems.
Because most of us have access to smartphones, there are apps — activity trackers, food logs and nutrition guides — that can serve as tools to help increase our success with reaching and maintaining goals. Also, asking for help or extra support from a family member or friend, or using a program like Sharp Health Plan's Best Health coaching services, can prove to be quite effective when it comes to making permanent, positive changes.