21 New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep
Have a healthy new year
If you're like almost half of all adults, you have a New Year's resolution. But once the champagne flutes are back on the shelf, it's hard to make that pledge stick. A week into the new year, just 77 percent of resolution makers are still on track, and after six months, only about 40 percent will have stayed the course, according to University of Pennsylvania research.
Why New Year's resolutions fail
Why is maintaining resolutions so tough? Researchers have ID'd several culprits, such as setting a goal that's too vague or having unrealistic expectations (lose 30 pounds by March 1—ha!). But perhaps the biggest challenge is turning your wishes into immediate action, then keeping with it. "It's easy to change your attitude but difficult to change your behavior," explains Christine Whelan, PhD, clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "If you're committed to it, however, you can make a new habit or behavior permanent."
How to set manageable goals
Outsmarting the odds means setting doable goals (go from couch to 10K, not a triathalon), then breaking them down into reasonable steps. A new you in the new year starts right here.
Find out how to reboot your diet, your workout, your stressful days, and your energy, and how you can make those resolutions stick.
Watch the video: 5 Simple Tricks to Stick to Your Weight Loss Goal
RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science
Reboot your diet
When it comes to cleaning up your eating, take a tip from the Boy Scouts: Be prepared. If you want to rise above temptation, like a yummy app spread at a party, you have to think one step ahead, says New York City nutritionist Joy Bauer, RD, Today show contributor and founder of Nourish Snacks. It also helps to have no-deprivation strategies, she adds: "Eating better is often associated with misery, so it's no wonder that so many people throw in the towel." Use these tactics to eat healthier, long-term.
Figure out your "why"
Don't focus on subtracting food
"Instead of making an 'I want to lose weight' pledge, try 'I'm going to put more fruits and vegetables on my plate,'" says Bauer, "so the resolution is a positive action that you can perform over and over." Art Markman, PhD, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Smart Change, agrees. "If it's an addition instead of a takeaway, you're more likely to repeat it until the action becomes an automatic habit," he says.
Do a kitchen cleanse
Toss unhealthy products (chips, sugary granolas, sodas) from your pantry, fridge, car and office, advises Maggie Moon, RDN, owner of Everyday Healthy Eating in Los Angeles. Then restock with good-for-you options, like carrots and air-popped popcorn. Make sure you don't have to dig deep to find them: Last year, Cornell University researchers found that women who kept healthy food visible in the kitchen had lower BMIs than those who left junky products out on their countertops.
Plan for snack attacks
"The hours between mid-afternoon and dinnertime are when cravings kick in hard," says Moon. Before leaving for work, pack a 200-calorie protein-complex carb snack in your purse. Think: hummus and pita chips or pistachios and a pear. Then, when a snack jones strikes, you'll have a go-to treat to avoid unhealthy office snacks.
Reboot your workout
Get-in-shape goals tend to fizzle as early as the third week of January, per recent data based on Facebook searches. Yet some keep at it. What's their secret? "People who are successful are more likely to view fitness as a permanent lifestyle change, not an activity they can give up once they reach a number on the scale," says Kirsten McCormick, founder of Running with Forks, a wellness coaching company in Seattle.
Take it a week at a time
"It's easier to make a plan to go running three times this week than vow to run three times a week indefinitely," says Whelan. "If you make your fitness goals week by week rather than so far-reaching, you'll have more success, and that in itself is motivating."
Raise the stakes
Bundle your workout
You may be more likely to participate in a behavior you're not so into—such as exercising—if you combine it with an activity you really enjoy, like catching up on House of Cards. This strategy is called "temptation bundling," and a 2013 study published in Management Science suggested it works.
Reboot your stressful days
"One big problem with making stress reduction your New Year's resolution is that it's so abstract," says Markman. "You can't just vow to relax without being more specific." And since you're not about to quit your job and hightail it to a peaceful island (you aren't, right?), it's crucial to learn the tools that will make your everyday tension less toxic.
Say no to something every week
Take a time-out daily
Vow to disconnect at least once a day, suggests Shojai. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths in your office, or crank up a soothing playlist on your commute.
"Meditating is like your brain's virus checker, detecting toxic stress and blocking its effects on your physical and emotional health," says Shojai. A 2013 study found that adults who were taught the basics of mindful meditation had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Got insomnia? Sleep meditation can help you doze off quickly.
Reboot your energy
One 2015 U.K. study showed that the main reason people were unable to make a change was that they were too tired to focus. Here's how to get yourself juiced for a great year.
Keep a fatigue diary
Once you pinpoint the time of day you feel draggy, you can make adjustments. "For example, if you're tired in the afternoon, you need to rethink what you eat for lunch or try to drink more water, " says Holly Phillips, MD, author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough.
Make a to-don't list
Pencil in bedtime
Most of us don't think of sleeping as actively doing something, so we don't plan it. "When you put it in your calendar," explains Dr. Phillips, "it becomes a priority, the same way your gym time and work meetings are priorities." Set a reminder to go off a half hour before you plan to hit the sack.
Download an app
Share your battle
Do more with Google
It's not just a search engine. Google Calendar lets you set a firm bedtime, and it can ping you when it's time for your time-out. Google Maps helps you gauge the distance, terrain and incline of a new running route. Download the Google app to turn your phone into a nutrition database or fitness class finder. Wherever you are, simply ask, "Where's the nearest barre studio?" and you'll get your answer.