What’s the secret to keeping a New Year’s resolution?

In January

• Track your progress by recording or charting your changed behavior.  Research indicates that such “self-monitoring” increases the probability of keeping the resolution.

• Reward your successes. Reinforce yourself for each step with a (healthy) treat or compliment.  Perhaps create a reward contract with a loved one.

• Build in a healthy behavior incompatible with your problem. For example, learn assertion if your resolution is to be less passive, or learn to relax if you are resolved to decrease stress.

• Arrange your environment to help, rather than hinder, you. Limit exposure to high-risk situations and create reminders for your resolutions. If you are limiting the sweets, don’t hang out in the bakery.

• Expect occasional slips in your resolutions. Most successful resolvers slip in January. But a slip need not be a fall; pick yourself up and recommit to your resolution after a slip. Don’t let one missed exercise class end the exercise program. One research study showed that 71% of successful resolvers said their first slip had actually strengthened their efforts.

• Avoid self-blame after a slip. Frequent self-blame predicts who will give up soon.

February and Beyond

• Cultivate social support. The buddy system works! And buddies can be coworkers, family members, friends, or fellow resolvers.

• Think of resolutions as marathons, not 100-yard dashes. Prepare for the long haul of a changed lifestyle.

• Prepare for slips associated with negative emotions and social pressures. Create a “slip plan” to deal with those situations once into February. Consider, for example, leaving the pressured situation, distracting yourself, and calling a friend, and remind yourself that a slip (lapse) need not be a fall (relapse).

• Avoid getting negative about yourself or your slips -- be positive about your successes!

• Remember that meaningful change takes time. It takes three to six months before a change becomes routine.
Many people begin the New Year with a resolution to improve their diet or exercise more. Or sometimes people set resolutions around other aspects of life that are important to them. Whatever the New Year’s resolution, the secret to keeping it is to make sure your goal is realistic and well planned. One way you can do this is by following the SMART model, which stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented.

Specific. What do you plan to do? For example, perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to walk more to improve your heart health. But be even more specific so the plan is clear. For example, you plan to walk 20 minutes at lunchtime Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Measureable. You need to be able to measure your goals to see your progress. If you can mark it on your calendar or a chart, you can measure it at the end of the week to see how successful you were.

Attainable. Don’t make your resolution a goal that is too hard to reach. Make your goal a series of small steps so that the end goal is easier to achieve.

Realistic. Only set goals you know you will be able to achieve. Instead of beginning as a new runner (or someone who is recovering from a medical event) with a resolution of running a marathon, you may want to start with one mile and set incremental goals from there.

Time-oriented. Pick a time frame for completing your goal. It helps to have an end in sight, and preferable a relatively short one. If your New Year’s resolution is a long-term goal, are there interim goals you can establish to give you successes along the way?

It can be tough to keep a New Year’s resolution, but you should not be too hard on yourself if you don’t entirely succeed. In some cases, having tried truly is better than not having tried at all. You may not run a marathon that year, but if you have gone from sedentary to being able to run three miles, is that really a failure? Aim for achieving your resolution, and congratulate yourself for any successes you achieve along the way.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
This is a tough one. We all start out with the best intentions but often within weeks we are back to where we started. The secret to keeping your New Year's resolutions is to not stop doing what you set out to do. You have to have a plan that you can follow; one that fits with your daily life. You have to be realistic and flexible. If you are rigid and things don't go exactly as planned, you have to be able to adapt rather than give up. You don't have to be perfect. Identify a goal. Pick three habits that support achieving that goal. When you have successfully integrated these habits or ways of being into your life you are ready to tackle another goal. The secret is to not give up and keep setting new achievable goals.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
What’s your resolution? Is it to lose weight? Quit smoking? De-stress? Whatever it is, the first step is to get motivated. Without the proper inspiration, how can you drive yourself to achieve your goals? Why not find a quote to inspire you and get you off that couch? One of my favorite quotes is from Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It motivates me to stay healthy and to keep my patients and viewers happy and healthy. Try posting a healthy quote or two on your Pinterest board as a reminder.
Robert DeVito
Keeping your resolutions

Losing weight is simple; it is just not so easy. When this question arises it could be reframed to "How do I lose weight and keep it off"? I am certain that you have lost weight before and regained it; so here are tips to modify your THINKING for long-term success.

5 tips to insure you break your failure cycle to reach your goals:

Get Specific - avoid "vague" goals. Weight loss is a poor goal. It is too general and lacks focus. The more specific you are with your goals the more likely you will be to reach them. How much weight loss? What is your time frame for reaching these milestones? What are you absolutely willing to do to achieve these results?

Focus on what you are gaining, not on what you are giving up. If you are focused on restricting items from your life and view improving fitness levels as a chore, or, you are focused on eliminating foods from your life - how long do you think you will have the willpower to hold out?

A better strategy is to list out all of the things you will gain by making changes to your habits. Improved energy and self-confidence would most likely happen first. Self-pride and the ability to stick with your goals and plans would follow.

Get into the process and out of the outcome. Change takes time. Be patient. No one makes a decision and magically changes. Everyone makes mistakes and takes missteps. Understand that a mistake is not the end. Get right back on track and get going.

Improved Fitness and Reduced Weight of any substantial sum is most likely a 12-18 month process. There will be plateaus and setbacks. How you plan for and deal with these setbacks will make all of the difference in your success. You WILL NOT experience smooth sailing. And, if you do, you will not maintain it for long.

Focus on your schedule. If you schedule it, you will do it. For many people sticking to a schedule is difficult. The habit of procrastination sets in and "The Tomorrow Syndrome" becomes a rally cry. If you will always start tomorrow and justify your lack of commitment to your health and goals you will never reach the goals that you set. Schedule your exercise and stick to your schedule. Make Fitness a non-negotiable priority. If you do not- you will not achieve the desired results.

Avoid "All or None" thinking. Focus on Progress, not perfection. If you are moving more than you have been before and eating better than you have then you are making progress! Congratulate yourself. You are doing great.
Chris Powell
To keep a New Year's resolution, it's best to keep it simple and ensure your goals are realistic, so that you can actually keep your promise. Watch celebrity fitness trainer Chris Powell explain how keeping resolutions small is the key to success.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.