It’s that time of year: After enjoying the holiday season and its joyous celebrations – some of which may include overindulging – many people turn their attention to making a fresh start on January 1. But what’s the best way to make sure those healthy resolutions stick?
Starting with a few tips can help you stay on the path to success, whether your goals are to exercise more, eat better, lose weight, manage your anxiety, get better sleep or to take care of your health in other important ways.
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,” said 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 (BMI) is over 40, or if you are overweight with other serious medical conditions,” Dr. Fisher said. “Losing that extra weight can help resolve or prevent some health issues from progressing.”
Your physician is also a valuable resource in discussing alcohol and other substance abuse concerns. Your provider can help manage those concerns, or refer you to additional behavioral health resources.
2. Turn to technology
If you have a smart phone, downloading helpful apps can help keep you on track toward reaching goals, Dr. Fisher said.
“The important thing is building regular habits, whatever your health goals may be,” Dr. Fisher said. “If you use a smart phone 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, allowing you to access your health records and more.
Using weight loss apps or using 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 said.
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
Most 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 fits well with you before committing. If workouts at the gym aren’t your thing, you can try a variety of different 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 youth and seniors.
“If you decide to join a fitness center, choose one that you will enjoy so you can maintain consistency and build your exercise habit,” Dr. Fisher said. “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 to easily 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 said. “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 less positive habits.
6. Write it down
You can use journaling to help you meet your goals. “Simply the act of listing your goals is a way to make them tangible,” Dr. Fisher said. “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, and journaling can be a good way to relieve stress.
Journaling 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 said. “And reaching your goal of being healthier will feel like a reward in itself.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.