Help with Sticking to Your Resolutions is Available

By Jeff Carmack, Managing Editor, Texas Department of Aging and Disability

This is the time of year when many of us – 40 percent, by some estimates – start to think about resolutions, and what we might do in the new year to make us healthy and happier. With every good intention we vow to eat better, lose weight, be more active or some combination of these and other self-improvement goals.

However, few of us keep our resolutions. Research by the University of Scranton suggests that a mere 8 percent of us achieve our lofty goals.

If you’ve resolved to change your ways in 2016, there are some tricks you can use to help you keep your resolutions, courtesy of the Texas A&M School of Public Health.

Doris Howell, MPH, is director of the university’s Evidence-Based Program on Healthy Aging.

The center conducts evidence-based health and wellness programs in communities, including fall prevention and chronic disease management. Classes are led by instructors trained by A&M.

Howell said that one useful technique for keeping resolutions is action planning.

“That means realizing your goal has to be tangible and actionable, and breaking it down into manageable steps,” she said.

“People see the broader goal, but don’t know tiny steps that will allow them get to that goal. Smaller steps, when accomplished, create feelings of success.

“For example, if you want to lose weight, that’s not tangible – it’s too vague. What you could do instead is say, ‘When I snack this week, I’m going to substitute carrots for chips Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ ”

This sort of realistic goal-setting helps because success breeds confidence. “Lots of people unwittingly set themselves up to fail,” Howell said. “This is damaging in itself, but it also discourages you from getting back on the horse.

“When a person sees they can succeed in a small way, that makes a huge difference. It’s the power of what a small change can be in the grand scheme of things.”

She cites as an example a woman from one of her classes who resolved to watch less television. She started by turning off the TV for just 10 minutes a day, and then week by week increased the time she kept it off. “Once she got away from the TV, she started making new friends in class, and three of them started a walking program.”

Another tip to boost your odds of sticking to your resolutions is to make sure your resolutions are important to you, not just to a spouse or someone else. “It needs to be something you want to do – something you’re motivated to do, and not something someone else wants you to do,” she said.

For more information on A&M’s evidence-based programs, call Doris Howell at 979-436-9370 or visit http://sph.tamhsc.edu/pha/ebp/programs/index.html.