It’s that time of year: After enjoying the holiday season and its celebrations — some of which might have included overindulging — you may be turning your attention to making a fresh start on Jan. 1. But what’s the best way to make sure those healthy resolutions stick?
Taking a few simple steps can help you stay on the path to success, whether your goals are to exercise more, eat better, lose weight, manage your anxiety or get better sleep.
1. Make an appointment.
It’s always a good plan to schedule your annual physician visit or wellness appointment to talk about your health goals, particularly when you’re starting a new exercise plan or diet.
“A lot of people start the new year with resolutions about exercise, diet or stress,” says Dr. Cynthia Fisher, Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh. “I recommend talking with your health care provider, who can discuss your goals and help ensure you’re pursuing them in a healthy way. We also can recommend tools and resources that can help you reach those goals.”
People who are significantly overweight or obese, in particular, can gain direction from their physician on managing weight loss, and in some cases, discussing options such as weight loss surgery.
“Your health care team can offer the best options available for you, particularly if your body mass index is over 40, or if you are overweight with other serious medical conditions,” Dr. Fisher says. “Losing that extra weight can help resolve or prevent some health issues from progressing.”
Your provider is also a valuable resource in discussing alcohol and other substance use concerns. He or she can help manage those issues or refer you to additional behavioral health resources.
2. Turn to technology.
If you have a smartphone, downloading health, fitness or mindfulness apps can help keep you on track toward reaching goals, Dr. Fisher says.
“The important thing is building regular habits, whatever your health goals may be,” she says. “If you use a smartphone or other device, adding a health-related app might be an option to help keep you on track.”
ThedaCare has its own free app, Ripple by ThedaCare, which can help you meet your goals by sending appointment reminders, tracking your health data and allowing you to access your health records.
Using weight loss apps or wearable devices also can help keep you on track with exercise goals. Other apps can help with daily meditation and mindfulness to aid stress relief and sleep. Some apps have a monthly or annual fee, so it’s important to pay attention to the terms of free trials.
3. Get a buddy.
“Studies show a great way to build and stay motivated to reach your fitness goals is to partner up with someone and exercise with them,” Dr. Fisher says.
Find a neighbor who has a similar schedule and walk around the neighborhood together each morning, or meet a friend at the gym and make it a regular social event each week.
4. Join that gym.
Many area gyms and fitness centers offer specials at the beginning of the year, or they might offer trial memberships so you can see if the gym is the right fit before committing. If workouts at the gym aren’t your thing, you can try a variety of fitness classes through local studios, such as yoga, Pilates or dance. Organizations like the YMCA offer a combination of workout rooms, classes and programs for people of all ages.
“If you decide to join a fitness center, choose one that you’ll enjoy so you can maintain consistency and build your exercise habit,” Dr. Fisher says. “And be sure to seek instruction on any equipment you are unfamiliar with to help avoid injury.”
5. Be incremental.
Adding positive “micro-habits” can help you build change into your routine.
“If your goal is to eat healthier, you might start by adding new fruits or vegetables to your family’s menu for the week,” Dr. Fisher says. “Or if your goal is to exercise consistently, you might start by walking around the block after you get home from work.”
Once you have those new habits in place, it becomes easier to expand upon them, which leaves less room in your life for unhealthy habits.
6. Write it down.
You can use journaling to help you meet your goals.
“The simple act of listing your goals is a way to make them tangible,” Dr. Fisher says. “And you can continue by keeping a record of your progress each day, which can help keep you on track.”
“Free-writing” in a journal — or writing about your feelings or whatever comes to mind — can be a way to discover the deeper motivating reasons behind your goals. Journaling can also be a good way to relieve stress. This can be a new habit in itself, so don’t pressure yourself to write for a long time or even to write well — just start with a few sentences about how you’re feeling.
7. Give yourself a reward.
Stopping to enjoy your successes can motivate you to continue working toward your goals. Set goals for a certain time period, and if you meet them, give yourself something fun to celebrate.
Rewards don’t need to be expensive — they can be simple like setting up a family movie night, enjoying tea with a friend or taking a half an hour off to watch a favorite show. Or you can think bigger: Maybe you want to take a vacation or buy yourself some new clothes.
“We all need ways to celebrate our successes along our journey to better health,” Dr. Fisher says. “And reaching your goal of being healthier will feel like a reward in itself.”
Start the new year on a healthy note.
Use MyThedaCare to schedule your annual wellness visit.