Jordan Douglas, MS, HHC
The new year is a natural turning point, providing us with the opportunity to pause and reflect on our goals and aspirations for the year ahead. For many of us, health and well-being figure prominently in our intentions and resolutions for the upcoming year. Below I’m sharing 5 highly effective tips for setting and maintaining goals and creating sustainable healthy habits.
- Start small. Many folks wake up on New Year’s Day ready to eat healthy, exercise daily, kick coffee and alcohol, and start meditating. While these are all ultimately achievable goals, attempting to tackle them all at once is unrealistic for 99% of the population and results in frustration, disappointment, and often abandonment of all goals by mid-January. Instead, I encourage you to start small, and pick one area or goal to focus on. Use the following tips to integrate that goal or habit before moving on to the next one.
- Get specific. “Exercise more” and “eat better” are great broad ideas, but for these ideals to be successfully implemented into realistic, achievable goals we need to drill down into the specifics. Taking exercise as an example, what kind of movement do you want to commit to (e.g., a daily walk, yoga, HIIT class, bike ride, etc.)? Where will you do it (e.g., in your home, the gym, outside) and what tools do you need to successfully commit (e.g., running shoes, a yoga mat, weights, workout clothes that fit and make you feel good, a workout buddy)? When can you schedule it into your day? When we go from “I want to exercise more” to “I’m going to go for a 30-minute walk Monday through Friday at 7:30am following X loop in my neighborhood,” our goals become more clear and more actionable.
- Habit stacking. Habit stacking is the practice of pairing new habits with pre-existing ones. This practice is highly effective for behavioral change, as goals are most attainable when the actions that support them become habits that are woven into the fabric of your lifestyle. Let’s say that another one of your 2022 goals is to drink more water. You can easily stack this habit by having one 8 oz glass of water upon waking each morning, and/or when you return from your morning walk, and/or before you eat lunch, etc. The intricacies will depend on your unique lifestyle, but the key is to stack your new habit onto another action that is a permanent fixture in your life (and yes, you can stack many habits on top of one another!).
- Enjoy it and make it fun. Life is hard enough, there is no need to punish yourself as you work toward achieving your health goals. Listen to your favorite music while you move or cook. Drink water out of your favorite vessel. Wrap a beautiful blanket around yourself while you mediate. Share the highs and lows of the journey with someone you trust. Find ways to infuse you action steps with joy and beauty and remember the ultimate goal here is to take care of yourself.
- Try something new. If the whole prospect of goal and intention setting feels overwhelming or scary, I encourage you instead to simply focus on trying something new. If you want to move more, you can pick a new trail or park to explore each month. If you want to cook more, sample one or two new delicious recipes each week. If you want to create more, take a pottery class, dabble in water colors, make a collage, or swing by your local craft store for inspiration. Letting novelty lead the way opens up a world of excitement and possibilities.
Setting, achieving, and maintaining goals and healthy habits is fun and fulfilling but is certainly not always easy. Support is paramount to success and longevity, be it through friends, family, an online community, coach or mentor. If you need help getting started or guidance along the way, email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free 30-minute nutrition counseling session.