New Year's resolutions are a testimony to an unrelenting desire to be better. While many of us wish for improvements, only 40 to 45 percent of Americans write down intentions to actualize positive changes in their lives. Studies show those who do are ten times more likely to achieve their goals than those who only dream. As popular as resolutions are, many of them get dropped like the Times Square ball before the confetti is swept away. Understanding how to create and keep healthy resolutions can make success easier and, in the process, you can cultivate conviction to benefit your body and mind.

New Year's Resolution Success Rates

Adults who make at least one resolution each year most commonly aspire to health management goals such as losing weight, starting or increasing exercise, and stopping tobacco use. This data shows how many stick to this personal goal as the year goes on:

  • after one week: 75 percent,
  • two weeks: 71 percent,
  • one month: 64 percent, and
  • six months: 46 percent.

Research indicates less than half of those who set New Year's goals continue to maintain them past the end of June. This minority discovers and implements ways to succeed at setting and attaining their goals. They prove that it is possible to overcome challenges, setbacks, and apathy to make long-lasting changes for better health.

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The Comfort of "Now"

Perhaps the most formidable enemy of successful resolutions is our inclination toward inertia. It is often difficult for us to push for changes because a part of us is so accustomed to where we are at present, even if where we are is not ideal. The changes we want to experience may feel abstract and require shaking up our routines for an uncertain outcome. With resolutions, the desire for improvement has to motivate us more than the pleasure or ease of the moment. We must be willing to forfeit the comfort of "now" to reach toward a new way of living.

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High Hopes or False Hopes

Setting too many or unrealistic resolutions can be a setup for failure. Any lifestyle adjustment requires time, energy and emotional strength; attempting to channel your inner resources into multiple changes simultaneously is likely to exhaust rather than inspire you. Impractical expectations regarding the time and resource requirements, as well as the consequences of change -- known as false hope syndrome -- can also derail the best of intentions.

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Doctors' Resolution Suggestions

Can't decide on a resolution? The American Medical Association released a list of resolutions that could help us make significant improvements to our health. This group of physicians encourages Americans to:

  • increase physical activity,
  • understand your blood pressure readings,
  • learn about your type 2 diabetes risk,
  • cut back on processed foods,
  • take medications exactly as prescribed and do not share them,
  • nix nicotine and tobacco,
  • drink alcohol moderately or not at all, and
  • manage stress.

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Make SMART Resolutions

Undertaking positive changes for your health begins with how you think. The first step -- which has probably led you to this article -- is acknowledging that you want or need to treat your body differently. Next, you will want to set clearly defined resolutions. Turn your hopes into tangible SMART strategies: ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Vague resolutions lead to vague results. For instance, cutting back on refined carbs is a commendable goal, but it is not SMART. Replacing sugary drinks with water for one month is unambiguous, observable, doable, practical, and time-oriented. Linking your resolution to a goal, such as normal blood sugar levels, may further motivate you.

SMART New Year's resolutions

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Take It Easy

Minor, incremental adjustments are more likely to lead to sustained progress than drastic dietary and lifestyle overhauls. Twenty minutes of walking in place daily is more practical for a beginner to commit to than one hour of intense Zumba three times a week. The victory you achieve with meeting small goals can spur you on to reach for bigger ones. Little steps are also less likely to cause injury, keeping you physically capable to keep achieving, and they make it easier to gauge what works or does not work for you.

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Rally Support

Make family and friends aware of your resolutions for better health. Those who truly care about you will encourage you to avoid temptations and hold you accountable. If you need a wider community, social media lets you connect with groups of people who have committed to a healthier lifestyle. Emotional support is a powerful motivation to keep going.

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Be Flexible

A hard-line ultimatum to break long-held habits may not hold up long. Replacing unhealthful habits with new ones takes time, and you may lapse. Every day -- even every hour -- is a chance to begin anew, to continue toward better health or get back on track if you have skipped a day at the gym or snuck a few cookies. Any time of the year is ideal for enhancing your well-being, so it is never too late to get started or start again.

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Discover Your "Why"

Knowing the reasons behind your goals is as important as the goals themselves. Ask yourself why your health resolutions matter to you. Do you want to lose weight to have knee surgery? Do you want to exercise to fit into a special outfit? Remembering your "why" will help keep you encouraged to stay the course to healthier living.

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Enjoy Your Journey

Healthy living is a continuous goal. Pursuing and maintaining wellness should reduce, not add, stress to your life. When we enjoy something, we tend to apply ourselves more fully and experience a higher level of fulfillment. Take pride in knowing that you are creating a richer life for yourself and those close to you. Do whatever you need to make the journey fun, whether it's sharing your progress online, choosing hiking over the treadmill, or planning celebrations when you reach your milestones.

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.