Whether the tradition of making a new year’s resolution was started by the Babylonians or by the Romans, who made promises to the god Janus, humans have been making and breaking resolutions for a long time.
Many of us look to the new year as a time to make changes and improvements in our lives, so it may not come as a surprise that the most popular resolutions are health related. Resolving to eat a healthier diet or lose weight tops the list, followed by getting regular exercise and quitting smoking. Addressing ways to improve our mental health are sure to be on the list for 2023 post-pandemic.
Would it surprise you to know that, while fewer than half of Americans make a new year’s resolution (according to Pew Research Center in 2014) over 30 percent report that they do not succeed? Those of us who frequent our local recreation center or gym know all too well how crowded they are in January only to get back to normal by mid-February.
The road to nowhere is paved with good intentions. But how do you get on the road to somewhere? Motivation is great to get us started but discipline and time are needed to develop and maintain a new habit.
Our brains seek the simplest path and follow ways that have been ingrained through a lifetime of repetition. Yes, habits. Research from University College in London found it takes about 66 days to break an old habit and can take longer to solidify a new one. Linking your desired resolution to an existing habit can help the new practice become ingrained.
For example, you resolve to floss your teeth regularly, so you link it to the time you are already brushing your teeth. Making your goal specific, having a plan, and envisioning life once you have achieved your goal are helpful steps to success.
Instead of saying you want to exercise more, say you plan to walk every morning before breakfast for 30 minutes, five days a week. This will help you get the recommended 150 minutes per week of exercise. Are you new to exercise? Perhaps a five-minute walk is a better starting point. Realistic goals will be more achievable.
It can be easy to convince ourselves that we can skip that walk today. If you have a friend who is counting on you, the likelihood of completing your workout is greater. Not only does this make you accountable to your exercise buddy but it makes the activity more fun. Our brains also seek things that are pleasurable and make us happy. Celebrating these daily achievements builds confidence. Do not wait weeks or months to pat yourself on the back.
You know what you want to achieve in 2023 to improve some aspect of your life. Are you willing to do what it takes? Hopefully, these tips will help set you on the right road in 2023. Consult your physician before starting an exercise program and remember: an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Happy New Year!
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Jane Newman, RN, BSN is an ICU nurse at Lutheran Medical Center.