Happy almost New Year!
With that cheerful saying often comes questions about New Year’s Resolutions. The new year is a time of big ideas, aspirations, and hopes around health and wellness. How often have you heard or said, “This is going to be MY year!”? What happens next time you check in with yourself or friend who said that? An overwhelming majority of those who set health-focused resolutions will break them well before the end of the year. This is most often because the resolutions being set are unrealistic, too vague, or unmeasurable.
There is nothing wrong with setting New Year’s resolutions around your health; it is a fun way to set goals! We want to make sure you are setting yourself up for success with SMART goals. SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and have a time frame. Here are some examples of health-related resolutions often set by people looking to live a healthier life, and the same goals reframed as SMART goals:
Old Resolution: Eat healthy (unmeasurable)
- SMART Resolution: Eat 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables at least 5 days per week for the whole month of January.
Old Resolution: Eat less sugar (vague)
- SMART Resolution: For two weeks, make sure at least one snack per day includes protein, carbohydrates, and fat to keep me satisfied and balanced.
Old Resolution: Eat less fast food (vague)
- SMART Resolution: Make a grocery list and connected meal plan for the week at least 2 times per month.
Old Resolution: Try new foods (unmeasurable)
- SMART Resolution: Try at least one new food or dish at family mealtime each month for the whole year.
Old Resolution: Drink more water (vague)
- SMART Resolution: Every day for two weeks, drink at least 64 ounces of water and reflect on how you feel at the end of the two weeks.
Old Resolution: Exercise every day (unrealistic)
- SMART Resolution: Do (your choice) activity for 30 minutes 4 days per week for 1 month and reflect on how you feel at the end of the month.
Old Resolution: Be less stressed (unmeasurable)
- SMART Resolution: Spend 15 minutes per day relaxing for 2 weeks such as journaling, meditating, watching or listening to something that makes you laugh, doing a quick yoga flow, taking a bath, painting your nails, cuddling a family member or pet, listening to soothing music, and/or performing breathing exercises.
Old Resolution: Get better sleep (vague)
- SMART Resolution: For one month, finish daily caffeine intake by 2pm on weekdays. For one week, put phones and other devices away at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
Old Resolution: Spend more time outside (vague)
- SMART Resolution: As a family, go to a park/nature preserve/beach at least once every month for the whole year.
Notice we did not put weight loss in any of these goals. One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, but people rarely shed the pounds. Why? Weight loss is an outcome of certain habits, not a habit itself. Instead of focusing on a vague goal of losing weight, create habits focused on measurable health and performance activities and learn what outcomes these may bring to your body and life. Sure, eating more fruits and veggies and exercising more could lead to weight loss, but it might not. More important than weight, these healthy habits could improve lab values such as cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, creating a longer, more enjoyable life.
We hope these ideas inspire you to create SMART resolutions and enjoy healthy habits year-round!