With this year winding down and 2022 just around the corner, it means it is nearly time for New Year’s celebrations – and a fresh batch of New Year’s resolutions. While some people love the idea of starting the year off with a list of self-improvements, others seem to dread the calendar flip that traditionally ushers in a season of making changes. But there might be an easier solution. There are ways to get a head start on New Year’s intentions or resolutions.
Last year, nearly 65% of Americans set New Year’s goals or planned to make a lifestyle change when the ball dropped and 2021 began. A lot of those resolutions revolved around losing weight, eating healthier, saving money and exercising. But of those, about 80% of people saw their grand plans end without success, according to a report in Forbes. And many of those good intentions evaporated before the end of February.
Sudden changes can be tough to make, mentally as well as physically. There’s a better chance for success if people make gradual progress toward a goal. For example, if a heavy meat eater decides to become vegan at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, a period of intestinal discomfort might await them as their body gets accustomed to all the servings of vegetables and beans on the new menu. The same is true for the person who decides to take up running as part of their New Year’s plan: going from couch to 10K-ready is probably not going to happen overnight without some pulled muscles.
Here are some ways people can start now and ease into their New Year’s resolutions in hopes of seeing success in 2022:
Reduce debt. Being stressed financially can take a toll on mental health, and many have better financial health as a goal. But during the end-of-year holidays, many shoppers find themselves swiping credit cards at a dizzying pace, racking up more debt right as they head into the new year. Instead, try this:
- Set a budget for holiday shopping.
- Reign in December spending habits so January’s goal will be easier to meet.
- Consider putting a portion of any year-end bonus money toward reducing debt.
Exercise more. People who do few if any regular workouts might find it difficult to jump into a robust exercise routine. They should start paving the way for change. Once the New Year rolls around, increasing the intensity or frequency won’t seem too drastic. Always talk to a health care provider before beginning a new exercise routine. Some ideas:
- Add one or two cardio session a week. This could be a trip to the gym, or an after-work walk with friends.
- Keep some hand-held free weights at home for a couple of sessions of shoulder and back exercises.
- Take one yoga or Pilates class to learn basic stretching moves.
Eat healthier foods. A December full of holiday parties, buffets and cookies tends to move people in the wrong direction if eating better is their January goal. To make this feel like less of a cold-turkey switch, gradually start phasing in better eating habits in the last few weeks of the year. Here are some approaches to try:
- Add one meatless meal into the week.
- Start swapping two glasses of soda or juice each week for a carbonated, flavored water.
- Eat one extra piece of fruit or vegetable per day.
- Trade a nightly dessert for a square of dark chocolate.
Over time, small changes can make a big difference. Achieving goals takes consistency – so finding ways to make new habits less intimidating is a good place to start.
Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more healthy living tips and ideas, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.
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