If your New Year’s resolutions start off strong but unravel over time, you’re in good company.
Try something new this year by setting a resolution for each month of the New Year. By breaking up the year and focusing on one goal a month, you avoid the goal-setting misstep of trying to make too many changes at once.
Monthly goals can also encourage motivation by racking up small, frequent progress, just remember to reward yourself even in the small successes, and to learn from the short comings as well.
Juan Gavalda, MD, board certified in family medicine, on staff at Methodist Mansfield has helped many patients achieve weight loss and lifestyle changes. Here are some of his favorite goals to try in 2018.
January: Complete 300 minutes of meditation. That’s less than 10 minutes a day! Mediation can improve brain function, memory, and decrease anxiety, all of which reduce cortisol, the "stress hormone."
February: Set a strength goal, such as doing a certain number of pushups or lifting a certain weight. Strength training protects bone and muscle health and improves posture.
March: Learn a new skill. Your brain grows new connections when you try a new activity. The more connections you have, the less likely you’ll develop memory loss in the future.
April: Eliminate one "bad food" from your diet. Dropping foods (or drinks) high in sugar can lead to a healthier heart, decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes, and boost your energy level.
May: Write a journal entry each day. Journaling is known to boost your emotional intelligence and feelings of mindfulness as well as enhance self-discipline. Even a small paragraph can lead to great insight.
June: Stretch at your desk four times a day (about every 90 minutes). You’ll realign your posture, reduce muscle fatigue, and improve flexibility. (For other stretch ideas, check out "Easy Exercises to Give Your Back and Neck Relief" at Answers.MethodistHealthSystem.org.)
July: Eat 30 more pieces of produce — that just one extra per day! Protect yourself against chronic diseases, such as cancer or heart disease, by boosting your daily intake of fruits and veggies, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
August: Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Enjoy the benefits of improved skin complexion while flushing out toxins.
September: Walk 30 miles. Indoors or out, racking up steps will help you prevent or manage conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.
October: Finish 300 pages of new reading. Improved vocabulary, brain power, and relaxation are all connected to the written word.
November: Find two new ways to serve others. Giving back is a known mood-booster.
December: Fit in more flossing. Good oral hygiene, including daily flossing, has been linked with lower risks of cardiovascular problems and rheumatoid arthritis, and everyone will be able to see your wonderful smile after accomplishing all these goals.
It takes over two months (about 66 days) for a habit to become routine. Dr. Gavalda suggests trying the "habit stacking method" — you couple the new, small habit you want to form with an existing daily habit. Doing the new habit right before or after the existing habit takes advantage of pathways that already exist in the brain.