If you made a New Year’s resolution this year, great. If you’ve stuck with it, even better. But if you haven’t, or feel like you’re struggling with it, take heart, you’re not alone. It’s believed that 80% of people have given up on their resolutions by mid-February.
The most common resolutions are those dealing with health aspects, with exercising, eating healthy, losing weight and quitting smoking among the top. These are also the resolutions most commonly broken.
We all Struggle with New Year’s Resolutions
But you don’t need numbers or statistics to know this. Anyone who goes to a gym or community centre will notice how it goes from super busy in early January and then tapers off with each passing week. You can also see this through online searches. Searches for diet, weight loss and exercise nearly double in the first two weeks of January compared to the end of December. By February they’ve down 25% and continue to decline throughout the year until January when the cycle begins.
This phenomenon is so common that the social fitness network company, Strava, has used its data from millions of users to coin the term Quitter’s Day. This is the day when it sees a substantial drop in the number of activity uploads to its network. For 2020, this day was January 19.
All of this is to say that making long-lasting changes isn’t easy. And it’s not something unique to New Year’s. Change is hard whether you started on January 1st or July 23rd (or any other date), and setbacks are common. In fact, setbacks are part of the process.
Proper planning can help, but it’s not foolproof. If you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution, or a lifestyle change at any other time of the year, ask yourself these questions:
Did you set realistic goals?
When it comes to your goal, was it realistic? Both in terms of what you want to achieve and when. Weight loss goals are probably some of the most common yet can also be some of the most unrealistic. It’s not uncommon for people to want to lose weight in a few weeks when it took years to put that weight on. With a realistic goal, you’re more likely to reach it and also maintain it for longer.
Are you doing too much too soon?
Don’t expect yourself to change all of your unhealthy habits in one night, one week, or even one month. If you’ve decided to eat healthier, don’t try to stop eating out for lunch every day, cook more food at home, and eat more fruits and vegetables if you haven’t before. Start small first. Tackle one habit at a time and build from there.
Are you focusing too much on the results?
Humans are a species of instant gratification. When we want something, we want it now. But when making changes, it can take a long time to see results. Monitoring your progress is fine but focus on the process more and not the results. This can mean the number of times you exercise as opposed to changes in your fitness. Or improvements in your diet instead of what the weigh scale says.
Why are you doing it?
So you resolved to start exercising, great. This is a worthwhile goal to have and I can give you dozens of reasons why to do it. But why did you decide to do it? Often our health goals are made because someone told us to, or we feel it’s good for us. In doing so, we focus more on the what to do, but not the why to do it. Unless you know why you’re doing it, it makes it hard to keep going. And for that why, it needs to be personal. Make a healthy lifestyle change for reasons that are meaningful to you, not to your family, friends or doctor.
Are you too hard on yourself?
Setbacks when making changes in life are common. We actually learn from these setbacks in how to prevent them in the future. If your goal is to cut out sugar, don’t beat yourself up if you’re at a friend’s house and have dessert because it’s offered to you. Sure it’s great to be perfect, but very few of us are. That one dessert isn’t going to make a difference in terms of your health, or your habit of reducing sugar. But if you stew on it and beat yourself up because of it, that can be more damaging to your progress than actually having the dessert.
Getting Back on Track
How you answered these questions will provide direction on how to move forward. In some cases, revising your goal to match what is feasible may work. In others, you may need to plan for a longer time to get to your goal. Or you may just need to be kinder to yourself. Remember, we’ve all been there, struggling to make change.
The key is to turn your change into a lifelong habit. So that it becomes your new normal. But habit formation is as individual as you are. For some, it can happen in 2-3 weeks, and for others, it can take up to nine months to turn a new change into a habit.
If you’re one of the many who have quit their resolution or struggling keeping up with it, there’s always time to reset and restart. You don’t need to wait until the next January 1st to resolve to improve your health. Any day of the year is a good day to do it.
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