By Kimberly Burke
It’s a time of year when many are hoping to make some big changes and create some new healthy habits. While new goals and a change in routine can serve many well, in order to make some of these changes it has more to do with our approach than the goals themselves. Here are a few tips when creating goals around health and habits in the New Year.
- Avoid too much too soon – It’s pretty common to want to make drastic changes with a New Year’s Resolution, but it’s the drastic changes we have a hard time sticking to. They don’t fit our current life balance and one can be left feeling overwhelmed trying to make impactful habits occur in one week. Habits take time to form, and small changes over time lead to habit changes not one big change in one moment. If you’d like to exercise more or eat a little healthier don’t burn yourself out in the first week by doing all those things every day.
- Aim for exercising two times the first week of year for about 20 minutes. You’ll already be doing more than you were, and after a few weeks of successful and consistent workouts try lengthening the time or adding another day. If you have a new 10K goal, don’t feel like the first workout has to be a sprint. Start with a brisk walk, and move your way up to walk-jog ratios. Aim for making a few meals a week or snack options healthier rather than transforming every meal. As you get more and more used to the new routine slowly start adding in another meal to consider healthier alternatives.
- Start now – The start of the New Year, month, or week can be very enticing to make changes. It’s part of a fresh start and makes sense with timing in our life. However, it can also create more work and bad habits to overcome. Why wait to get started? You can start right now, with your next meal or work break. With goal start dates looming, many can over-indulge thinking, “I have to get this in now” which can lead to overeating and being under-active. Use your next opportunity to make a health-oriented choice and start your goal now.
- Choose goals for the right reasons – Creating a goal because you feel like you have to or to fit in with others’ expectations is not going to be motivating. Sure, maybe it would be nice to lose a little weight, but thinking of weight loss in terms of clothing, special events, and beach vacations often doesn’t keep people going in the long run. It’s an easy way to get down on ourselves about our habits and self-worth when there’s a number on the scale we have to reach. Focusing on the health change like better sleeping, energy, blood pressure, and cholesterol readings is often more powerful. Set goals because you want to be healthy for yourself and the ones you love, not because you think should you should still be wearing the same jeans from high school.
It’s an exciting and busy time of the year to catch up from the holidays and make changes. Use the time to think about what motivates you the most.
Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see the Adult Fitness Program website.