With the start of the New Year and “Heart Healthy” February fast approaching, many individuals have set positive goals and resolutions for themselves. While we make these resolutions with the best of intentions, they can be hard to maintain. Whether it’s changing your diet to lower your cholesterol or exercising more often, try some of these helpful tips that can help you turn your goals and resolutions into positive and permanent habits.
- Reward Yourself: Reinforce yourself for working toward your goal, and make the experience as enjoyable as possible. Remember, your reward can be anything, so be creative. For example, if your behavior is to exercise more often, you can try listening to your favorite music or watching your favorite show while you exercise. Or reward yourself with a delicious smoothie afterward.
- Don’t Give Up If You Mess Up: Go into your behavior change with realistic expectations – sometimes we forget about our new habits, while other times we just get busy. Try and remind yourself that forgetting is a part of the process. Make sure that if you mess up, you don’t give up on the behavior change all together. Instead, recognize that forgetting or ‘messing up’ provided you with some valuable information: your reminders or rewards may not be effective enough. Begin the next day by problem solving some ways to avoid forgetting in the future.
- Start Small: It’s admirable to be ambitious, but it is easier to make smaller change than drastic change. Try setting a larger goal, such as lowering your cholesterol. However, support it with smaller goals, such as eating an extra serving of fruit each day instead of dessert.
- Setting Goals: The most effective way to set goals is to set smaller, short term goals as well as bigger, longer term goals. When writing these goals, be sure to be specific! Instead of “I want to exercise more,” try, “I want to exercise 6 days a week by the end of the year.” A supporting short term goal could be, “I want to go to the gym once a week,” followed by a goal of “I want to go to the gym twice a week” in a month, and subsequently increasing the frequency each month until the long-term goal is reached.
- Set Reminders: Using visual cues to remind you about your new behavior change is a great way to make sure you follow through. A common reason for not making a positive change is simply that we forget about it in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Try placing a post-it in a spot where you will notice it, or even schedule a reminder on your phone to help create a trigger for your new habit.