For most people, the New Year is the perfect time to make a fresh start and make some changes. In fact, 45 percent of us will resolve to change something about ourselves (according to University of Scranton research). Unfortunately, only 8% of people can actually achieve their New Year’s goals! Why are resolutions so hard to keep? They’re hard to keep because habits can be extremely difficult to change, and we often set unrealistic goals. However, by using the right approach and following a few common sense tips, your resolutions can last beyond February and you’ll be closer to achieving your New Year’s goals.
The choice is yours
We all have our own personal New Year’s resolutions; however, one popular resolution is the promise to become more physically active. This can literally be a lifesaver. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that with at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, you can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. What a perfect place to start.
The SMART Approach
The first step to reaching any goal is to use the SMART approach. SMART goals refer to those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Orientated. Here’s a little taste of how you can use this approach to become more physically active:
- Specific: It’s not enough to say you want to exercise this year. You need to give it a number. For example, “I will visit the gym three times a week” or “I will walk to work four times a week,” or even “I will go for a 15-minute walk around campus after my lunch five days a week.”
- Measurable: Now that you’ve set a specific goal, you need to establish a way to measure your progress. For example, keep a physical activity diary or record how many miles you cycle, or start using a pedometer. Being able to measure your progress helps you move toward the larger goal.
- Achievable: Can you achieve your goal? Be real to yourself and think hard about what you really want to accomplish. It will save you a lot of time and frustration down the road, and you’ll be much more motivated to reach the end result.
- Realistic: Basically, start where you are, and increase your goals accordingly. If you have never run a five-kilometre race, it’s probably not a wise goal to say you want to run a marathon. While that may be your long-term goal, in the short-term you may want to aim for the 5K and take it from there.
- Time Orientated: Deadlines. Even the word gives people shivers! Deadlines can also be an ally. Give yourself a time frame for your goal. Six months? A year?
Making it stick
Setting goals – no matter how specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time orientated – are easy. Sticking to them is not. Here are some tips to help you stay the course in the weeks and months to come.
- One at a time: You have the rest of the year to pursue other goals. Set yourself up for success, and start with one resolution on January 1. Take small steps. Don’t be overwhelmed by wanting to run a marathon … take it one kilometre at a time.
- Reward yourself. By accomplishing and celebrating small steps, you’ll stay on track, focused, and positive. Have a friend for support. It’s easier to get to the gym on a regular basis if you have someone there waiting for you. If you can’t find a friend, enlist your family in helping you reach your goal.
- Enjoy: There is no one standard time period for a habit to form – it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, according to habit formation researchers from the University College London. The key is to focus on the activity or process that will take you toward your goal, rather than the goal itself. For example, if your goal is to participate in a 10K run by the end of the year, focus on being able to go a little bit further, and a little bit faster, every time you go out for a jog.
- Don’t be discouraged: If you slip up, don’t abandon your resolution. Skipping a session one evening is not the end of your journey. It’s just a temporary setback. Learn from the slip, and get back to your new activity habits.
- Be kind to yourself. You’re more likely to abandon your resolution when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, so set some time every day for yourself. Try meditation, yoga, reading a book, or just going for a walk. The more practice you have being still and calm, the more successful you’ll be for each step of achieving your goals.
Making SMART resolutions, staying focused, and enjoying the process will not only get 2014 off to a great start, but will also help make the coming year the best yet. Give yourself a head start by signing up for a free Healthy UBC workshop titled ‘Laughter Yoga- an Introduction’ on January 17th 2014, 12-1pm, in Henry Angus Room 254. This workshop will help you put the ‘fun’ into functional!