Evelyn Sikorski, CSW, is the manager of Employee Wellness and the Employee Family Assistance Program & Health Management at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

Making a 2015 New Year’s Resolution? You are not alone! Forty-five percent of Americans and fifty-one percent of Canadians pledge to do something different in the new year. One of the reasons why people seem to have so much difficulty sticking to their resolutions is they set the bar too high. Breaking your goals or goals down into small, achievable steps leads to success. Some other changes to your mindset and approach may also help.

January is the critical month because the first month after making a resolution is the hardest, but if you can get through it, you significantly increase the odds of it becoming a permanent change. Buckle down and keep your eyes on the prize if you want to still be going strong by February! Here’s how.

Take Charge of Your Health!

In the new year, as we resolve to do things differently, many of us begin by searching for that one thing that will lead us to a more fulfilling life. We live with the false notion of “if only…”   If only I could lose weight. If only I had a better job. If only I had more time to exercise. In order to move ahead, we have to stop running in circles and move toward action that will bring about the changes we desire. We have to take charge.

Make Connections

Lifestyle change does not occur in isolation. Focusing on only one aspect of our health can lead to feelings of frustration and isolation. For example, successful weight loss requires more than calorie restriction. Increasing physical activity and doing things you enjoy makes weight loss easier. You may further increase your success by getting involved with a support network to help you keep on track. Trackers and social media can help to measure success, keep you challenged and accountable, and help you ultimately reach your goals. Combining social interactions with nutrition and physical activity can enhance wellbeing. It’s all connected. Read more about “The Five Areas of Wellbeing.”

Set Positive Targets

No matter what your resolution is in 2015 it is important to set positive markers or targets for yourself to bolster your success. When things get busy and you feel stressed, it is easy to slip back into old habit patterns, regardless of your best intentions. We easily can work against our own best intentions. For example, a mid-day candy bar may seem like the best option for an energy boost because in the short-term, it feels like the right thing to do.

When we see an immediate payoff we are more likely to change our behavior in the moment. This aligns daily actions with your long-term interests. For example, we are more likely to skip reaching for the candy bar not when we ponder the long-term risk of obesity and diabetes, but when we consider the short-term reality that devouring it will lead to an afternoon sugar hangover that can have a negative effect on our energy and productivity the rest of the day. Having healthy options available to reach for makes the decision even easier — this is a positive target. Developing clarity, identifying your strategies and contingency planning can help ensure continued movement along the path of change. Setting these positive defaults and making even small changes in our daily routines can have a lasting impact on our success long term.

As you think about making a 2015, resolution think about these kick-start ideas.

Evelyn Sikorski, CSW, is the manager of Employee Wellness and the Employee Family Assistance Program & Health Management at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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