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5 tips to make your resolutions stick

January 15, 2018

If you're like many others, you've resolved to improve yourself in 2018. Maybe you've committed to doing nightly push-ups; perhaps you've sworn off sweets. Making resolutions is commonplace this time of year – but unfortunately, so is breaking them.

So, how do you keep your resolution? Here's what experts from around Manitoba recommend.

1: Make a plan

Blindly stumbling into your resolution typically doesn't end well. One way to prevent that is to create a personal action plan, says Jim Evanchuk of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"Your personal action plan is a thoughtful and honest conversation with yourself," he writes. "It helps you identify an action or behaviour that is highly important to you, one that you can envision yourself doing and feeling good about achieving."

Making a plan involves acknowledging the change you want to make, creating your goals, noting the difficulties you may experience and knowing the resources you can rely on.

2: Narrow it down

Maybe you're trying to eat healthier, so your goal is to eat more vegetables. That isn't clear enough, says the Sport Medicine & Science Council of Manitoba (SMSCM). "What does more mean?" the organization writes. "Is more eating a few peas on your plate? You need to be specific."

Rather than "more," you might aim for four servings a day, the SMSCM suggests. Being specific also makes your success easier to measure, because you'll know for sure if you've hit your four-serving minimum (rather than guessing whether you've eaten "more").

3: Be realistic

"One reason why I expect that resolutions tend to fail is that people try to accomplish too much, too quickly and precisely when they are still in recovery from the holiday season," writes Jason Leboe-McGowan, a psychologist at the University of Manitoba.

The SMSCM agrees. "Look at your goal and ask yourself if this is something that you can achieve based on your workload and schedule," the organization writes.

It's easy (and fun) to be ambitious, but consider whether you can see yourself succeeding in your goal months down the line, when your post-holiday excitement has faded and life is back to normal.

4: Plan around life obstacles

"I suspect that many resolutions ultimately fail because the structure of a person's life makes fulfilling the resolution impossible," writes Leboe-McGowan. For instance, if you're trying to get in more exercise, you'll need to look at the reasons you haven't exercised in the past. Does your work schedule conflict with your workout schedule? Do financial constraints prevent you from buying equipment or a gym membership?

"Adjustments to many other aspects of our lives may well be necessary if we are going to succeed at implementing even a modest New Year resolution over a practical timeline," Leboe-McGowan writes.

Unfortunately, making substantial life changes isn't easy. You'll have to create your resolutions with your situation in mind and see what changes you can reasonably make.

5: Forgive yourself

Sooner or later, you'll probably hit a setback. Maybe you'll miss an exercise day, or maybe you'll eat more sweets than you planned.

"Don't beat yourself up over your failure," writes Jim Evanchuk. "Instead, believe that you can get back on track. It's also important to not compare yourself to others. Your personal goals are just that."

It's important to realize that simply attempting change is a great first step. "At the very least, trying to improve ourselves will steal time away from doing things that are bad for us," says Leboe-McGowan.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2018!