January is like the Monday of months. You can either roll out of bed grumpy and let the fact that you have to get back to work just smack you in the face, or you can sit right up with a smile and set a positive tone for the week. It was from this concept that the infamous New Year’s Resolution was born. Only problem is, NYRs are also notorious for being ridiculously hard to maintain. So we’ve put together a list of steps that have worked for us in Januaries of the past. From this point on, you refuse to get a case of the Mon-uaries, got it?
Step 1- Journal
Get in the habit of keeping a journal with you. When you have a few minutes on your hands, jot down how your day is going. But make sure it’s not just your average “this is what I did today, this is what I’ll do tomorrow.” Take note of how you’re feeling. What you’re thinking. How you’ve been sleeping. Acknowledging the fact that on days you work out you feel less stressed or on the days you let your diet go you don’t quite feel yourself helps to visualize why you’ve made your goals. You’ve set these resolutions to better your mental, physical and spiritual health.
Seeing the direct connection between your happiness and the actions you took to achieve it will motivate you to keep the up the hard work. And later on down the road you can look back at old entries to see what it is that made you happy on certain days and do it all over again. If you’d rather type than scribe, sites like 750 Words log your entries in an account, allowing you to see trending topics in your writing over time.
Step 2- Split Your Goals into Manageable Chunks
We’re not saying you’re not capable of achieving greatness. Quite the opposite, in fact. But you’re more likely to get to the top of a mountain by going slow and taking breaks when necessary than by sprinting as soon as you hit the initial incline. If your resolution is to get organized, focus on what exactly should be first on the list. Is it your daily scheduling? The mess on your desk? Your closet? By compartmentalizing your goals into smaller ‘boxes,’ you’ll check more off, which does wonders for your psyche.
The same mentality applies to health-related goals. As we mentioned in our winter weather exercise post, setting small goals rather than one over-arching one can keep you from getting discouraged. Sure, you haven’t hit your goal weight yet, but you’re 5 pounds lighter than you were a month ago and your shoulders look more defined. Keep up with positive self talk and reward yourself (in the right way).
Step 3- Reward Yourself (in the Right Way)
It’s no novel psychological concept that people perform tasks better and more efficiently with the assurance of a reward after completion. So be Skinner and his rat and promise yourself a treat once you reach a goal. One option is to put X amount of money ($1, $2, $5?) in a jar every time you go a day without a cigarette/get home from work in time to have dinner with the family/crush a workout. Once you reach a certain amount, treat yo’ self!
People of the fitness world have mixed opinions on whether or not food should be a part of this whole reward system. Food as a reward only works if you use it wisely. Two ends of the spectrum could happen: 1) You work your butt off and stick to healthy meals over the course of the week, indulge at your favorite brunch spot on Sunday, and pick your healthy habits back up on Monday. 2) You do 5 sit ups and reward yourself with an ice cream sundae of an equal amount of scoops. Moral of the story, if food is your one true love, don’t deny yourself. That can lead to cravings so strong they could knock you off the wagon completely. But remember, New Year’s resolutions aren’t easy! You have to be willing to say no to cravings more often than you say yes to truly make progress. And if you weren’t trying to make progress, you probably wouldn’t have read this far.
Step 4- Have a Buddy
Holding yourself accountable is one thing. But having someone else hold you accountable is another. Two (or three, or four, or ten) motivational voices are louder than one. And if you make a plan to workout with somebody and flake, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting your pal down too. Or maybe they’ll just work out without you! This isn’t supposed to be a guilt trip, think of it more like friendly competition. You’ll also have a pair of ears willing to listen to your victories (go ahead, brag. You deserve it).
True to most anything in our world today, ‘there’s an app for that.’ Track your friends’ progress with apps like Endomondo, MapMyFitness or Nike + Running to help get/give motivation no matter where you are or who you’re with.
If you can’t find anyone else with the same goals as you, you can still get a pal/your significant other in on your long-term reward. If you promise your boyfriend/wife/mom you’ll take them to the best restaurant in town once you reach your goal, they’ll push you to reach it too.
Step 5- Make Every Day January 1st
Not in a Groundhog Day or 50 First Dates kind of way. Please, no. What we mean is that there’s no written rule saying resolutions can only be made on the first day of the New Year. If the habits you’d hoped to make slowly fade away, don’t just throw your hands up in the air and wait another 11 months to start fresh. Start on the 1st of the month, on Monday, at the next solstice or equinox, anything! If the resolution you made reflects the kind of person you want to be, then putting it off has no benefit. Failing is a part of life. How you react to it is what’s important. It takes 21 days to turn an action into a habit. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Run, Forest, Run! Eh, that one didn’t quite fit. But go get ‘em, Tiger.