With the new year comes the resolve to eat healthier, exercise more, and be better overall. Of course, few people follow through with resolutions for the long-term—for many reasons. Often, it’s because they make too many resolutions or because they set the bar too high.
The key is to remember that January 1 should not necessarily be the trigger date for an entirely new lifestyle. After all, the goal is behavior change—creating or changing a habit. And that’s not something that happens overnight. Here are a few tips for kickstarting—and keeping—healthy lifestyle changes.
Start small. Rather than trying to make a complete turnaround all at once, start out slowly and have realistic goals. Set aside a portion of your day for simple activities to begin developing a routine. If “exercise more” is your resolution, then even if all you do is walk for 10 minutes a day, your body will love you for taking the initiative to move. Before you know it, that 10 minutes will turn into 30 minutes and a regular routine.
Make a plan. Set short-term goals that you can build into larger, long-term goals. By having a plan that includes small, short-term goals for changing your life, you can begin to monitor your progress. The more goals you meet, the more you’ll want to keep improving.
Move more. Join the movement to get in 10,000 steps per day. They don’t have to be all at once, but they can certainly add up if you make that a daily goal. Park farther away from the office or grocery. Take the stairs more often. Take up an active hobby, one that gets you on your feet. Whether it’s hiking (my favorite activity), walking the dog, or even photography, you’ll be surprised to see how many steps you can actually fit into a day when you make it a goal to move more.
Give up one thing. Alcohol, smoking, fast food, sodas. If these are the vices you decide to give up for the sake of better health, you may find it easier to give up one vice at a time. For example, if you drink three sodas a day, then trim that number down to one a day for starters. Once you’re able to give up that vice for good, then move on to the next one. If you eat fast food five nights a week, lower that to one or two nights a week, then spend the other nights making family meals at home.
Drink more water. Studies have found that drinking water can increase weight loss. As a general rule, drink four to eight, 8 oz. glasses of water per day.
Cook at home more. Eating nutritious foods is a key part of changing your lifestyle to a healthier one. But if the idea of cooking at home is less than appealing, get creative and make mealtime a family sport. Try a new recipe each week, and make it a family decision. Get everyone involved in preparing the new dish. Look at ways to liven your plates by adding colorful veggies to every meal, and before you know it, they will be the norm.
Make more time for family, less time for gadgets. Carve out more time for the family, and then turn off the TV and adopt a policy of not using tech during that time. That includes any electronic gadget (tablet, iPod, smartphone). Whether it’s a game night or sitting down to a family meal, take time to talk and find out how what’s important to those closest to you. Even if you only make one night per week “tech free,” you’ll be making a positive change.
These are just a few tips for making long-term changes. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to your plans full-time. After all, it’s tough to change old habits. But by making a few changes over time, you can evolve into a healthy lifestyle for you—and your family.