Ahh, the new year. A fresh start and a chance to be a better you — well, that’s the goal, anyway. But if you’re like most people, you tend to ghost your resolutions quicker than you ghosted that overly enthusiastic couple you met at your spouse’s work party last month. In fact, only about 20% of people actually complete the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the year.
It’s not hard to see why. You might assume a “go big or go home” mentality will motivate you to succeed in losing weight, eating better, getting fit or getting your life together, but bigger steps mean a bigger likelihood that you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If you’re one of the elite few who sticks to their resolutions, then good for you!
This list is not for you. (How about checking out this article instead?)
For the rest of us, we need baby steps when it comes to improving our minds, bodies & souls in the new year. It might feel like slow progress, but even a single step forward is better than staying where you are if you’re unhappy with your current status.
Need some tips for getting the ball rolling on healthy goals in 2020? Here are six things you can do right now to get started.
1) Make a calendar
There’s something about seeing your goals in print (or virtual print) that makes them more real and attainable. Whether it’s a tangible paper calendar that you can hang on your wall or an app for your phone, get started with your 2020 goals by writing them down.
Don’t just make a vague list with entries like “eat better.” If your goal is to eat a more nutritious diet, then flip to the month of January and start jotting down meal ideas for each day. Meal planning the whole month might seem intimidating, so start with a week at a time and see how it goes. Look up some simple recipes or recipe swaps online, and make a grocery list based on what you come up with.
Trying to lose weight or get in shape? Break those goals down, too. Instead of writing “lose 20 pounds,” open your calendar to January and jot down weigh-in days and specific goals for those days. While you’re there, write down the kinds of activities you’ll be doing each day.
Over time, this methodical approach to planning your goals will snowball into part of your overall routine, making it more likely that you’ll accomplish whatever it is you want to do.
Breaking your goals down like this also makes you less likely to give up if you miss a day here and there. No need to scrap the whole plan if you miss a workout day. Just scratch that day off the calendar and start again the next day. It’s all about the baby steps.
2) Get a buddy on board
Be it spouse or BFF, an accountability buddy will make your goals more attainable and, frankly, more fun to do. No one’s an island. We need encouragement as humans, so don’t be afraid to ask for some from people you trust.
This works especially well if you gather a group of like-minded friends all trying to achieve the same or similar goals. Maybe you’re trying to pay more attention to your mental health in 2020. Good plan! You’re probably not the only one. Recruit a friend or two for weekly check-ins, maybe over coffee or a walk around your local park. When the going gets tough, your pals will help you keep going.
3) Donate or toss all the junk in your cabinets
We know that you’re rationing Aunt Claudia’s famous Christmas cutouts and your fridge is packed to the brim with holiday leftovers, but it’s time to cut the cord, friend. We say this with the best of intentions: If it’s in your house, you’re going to eat it.
Not everyone struggles with eating junk. We’ve heard legend of people who can actually have a single piece of chocolate and go about their business. But if your goal in the new year is to eat well and stop giving in to junk, then you may benefit from the cold turkey approach.
It’s not easy. But it’s important. One small step you can take right now to get started on your healthy new year goals is to clear your cabinets, fridge and secret stash spots of all the junk that’s accumulated over the last few months.
Feel bad about tossing uneaten food? Donate them to those legendary people we mentioned who have better self-control, or your local food pantry if they’ll take it.
4) Take a walk
Go for a walk… uh… right now. No, really. What else have you got going on?
Okay, maybe you don’t have time for a walk right this second. Or maybe it’s pouring down rain outside. When it stops and you’ve got some time, go for a walk. You can’t lose 20 pounds or get fit in the next couple of hours, but you can do something good for your mind and body by engaging in some kind of physical activity.
Remember that we’re going for small steps. In this case, we literally mean steps, as in walking. Grab a pair of tennis shoes and get moving.
Exercise can lift your mood, and you’re more likely to keep doing something once you get started. Humans are creatures of habit. So create a new habit by squeezing in a walk when you’ve got the time.
Like right now?
5) Create a bedtime routine
Yep, we’re talking to you, a real, live adult who works and pays the bills. You need a bedtime. And not just any bedtime. You need a set, regular bedtime complete with a routine that puts you right to sleep.
Lucky for you, you can create a simple bedtime routine tonight. Here’s a few tips from sleep experts on creating a bedtime routine that helps you get better, more restful sleep on a regular basis:
- Unplug an hour or so before bed, including your phone. The less screen time before you go to sleep, the better, since screens can interfere with your brain’s “go to sleep” hormones.
- Find a calming activity you enjoy, like reading or meditation, and do this right before you go to sleep. Stick with books that aren’t overly stimulating and save page-turners for daytime.
- Set the mood by dimming your lights, getting dressed for bed and arranging your bed and bedroom for sleep. A calm environment will help you relax, of course, which can help you fall asleep faster and stay that way
Good sleep is an essential part of good health. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep every night, and that starts with a proper bedtime routine. It also includes a regular waketime that doesn’t change — even on weekends — but let’s start small with a good bedtime routine and go from there. Better shut-eye will also help you achieve other goals throughout the year.
6) Call your doctor
You’ve probably seen disclaimers all over the place to “talk to your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise routine.” Well, they’re right. And we’re going to say it here, too. Before you start doing anything to your diet or exercise routine, have a chat with your primary care doctor. In terms of baby steps, this means calling the office and making an appointment for a checkup.
Even if you’re in good shape and just need to kick up your health goals in 2020, talking to your doctor on a regular basis is a good idea. Health problems can be sneaky, so discussing any changes in mood or general disposition is a smart way to catch things early or avoid big problems altogether.
Plus, your doctor might have advice for how to accomplish some of your new year goals, whether that’s to quit smoking, be more active or eat less sugar.
Most people don’t achieve their resolutions, but you don’t have to be like most people. Take small steps to gain traction. Learning how to do things the slow way could be more effective in helping you establish good long-term habits. Skip the fad diets and exercise crazes in favor of more methodical changes that will help you long after the new year glow fades.