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New Year's Resolutions

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Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

January 2012 - January is the number one month to reflect on the past year and to make resolutions to change. However, New Year's resolutions are often made and dropped because of unrealistic or unattainable goals. Koestner's research showed that after one week more than 22% fail and at 3 months more than 50% fail to reach their New Year's resolutions (2008). Some of the top resolutions are behavior changes which are directed to improve one's health, such as to stop smoking and to decrease alcohol consumption (Koestner 2008). The following guidelines should be used to make New Year's resolutions and keep them for the entire year.

  • Since most resolutions are behavior related, consider February 1st or your birthday as the starting date. This will allow time to think and plan for the change.
  • Define a specific small goal and make it achievable. One example: "I am going to lose 11 pounds this year which is one pound monthly. I will weigh myself on the first Friday of each month." Purchase a calendar and highlight the specific weighing day each month. Place the calendar where you can see it daily.
  • Use post-it notes and display positive affirmations around the house. One example: Display the positive affirmations on the bathroom mirror and/or refrigerator.
  • Don't obsess over occasional slip-ups. An example: I am going to walk 2 days each week on Sundays and Tuesday for 30 minutes. Record the walking results on a weekly calendar and keep this calendar visible daily. If you are unable to walk once during any given week then re-start the following Sunday.

The research shows that if you practice change, like exercising, for 21 days in a row then the practice change becomes a habit. After six months then the practice change (exercise) becomes part of your personality (Tresca 2011). In summary, for success with New Year?s resolutions:

  • Be realistic about changing behaviors and setting goals.
  • Keep behavioral change goals small and measurable.
  • Track your progress and stick with it.
  • Use positive affirmations and post these around the house and/or work stations.
  • Reward yourself for even small positive changes.
  • Keep trying and remember every day is a new day.

There are a number of resources that address New Year's resolutions and goal setting. One site that offers facts and information about goal setting is www.psychologytoday.comExit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving If you decide to make a New Year's resolution ensure the goal is meaningful, attainable, and measurable. Enjoy and celebrate new behavior change goals in 2012. 


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