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Mental Health

5 Harvard-Approved Tips to Help You Actually Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions


Most of us set some type of goal as we hit the refresh button to begin a new year. After the wildcard that has been 2020, you might be feeling like you need a fresh start on some of your habits. However, some estimates say that only eight percent of us actually stick to our new year’s resolutions — which is kind of depressing, really.

Luckily, the experts over at Harvard Health have shared some simple yet effective ways to help us really meet our goals for 2021. Check them out below.

Set ambitious goals.

We’re sometimes told that setting resolutions that are too lofty can hinder our ability to achieve them. However, the Harvard experts disagree. According to them, ambitious resolutions are particularly motivating and can be achieved with enough perseverance, encouragement, and support — the key is to break those goals up into smaller, actionable steps. Which brings us to the next tip…

Break big goals into smaller ones — and celebrate the wins.

Say your new year’s resolution is to lose 50 pounds. Harvard says that instead of looking at the larger objective and getting discouraged by slow-moving progress (which could make you give up sooner), you should break the goal into smaller ones to keep yourself motivated and feeling positive.

For example, aim to lose a pound a week toward your larger goal of 50! Try to get active at least three days a week to help you get there, rather than setting an activity goal for every day. Listen to a song that makes you feel victorious when you’ve reached your step goal each day. At the end of the week, reward yourself for your efforts by giving yourself a medal, announcing your progress on a social forum, or treating yourself to a massage (or other favorite activity)! Finding ways to reward yourself incrementally will help to keep you on track.

Make a written or verbal commitment.

Once you’ve decided on your goal, Harvard says it’s important to declare it to someone else — or the public! The reason is that accountability matters to most of us. When we proclaim that we are going to do something, there is something in us that doesn’t want to go back on our words or let someone else down, and so we’re more likely to stick to those promises. You can make your declaration to someone like your spouse, your child, or a family member or friend, or go the route of announcing your goal publicly on a social media platform or in a support group.

Don’t get discouraged when you hit a snag.

So you didn’t meet your goal this week. The folks over at Harvard suggest that this isn’t a reason to quit — it’s more of a learning opportunity. When you find yourself at a snag, they say it’s important to sit down and carefully consider what got in the way without beating yourself up over any mistakes that were made. Take an inventory of the habits, thoughts, and emotional states that lead to any behaviors that didn’t further your goal. Then, make changes for the next week accordingly.

Practice gratitude.

Last but not least, Harvard Health experts say that gratitude is a powerful tool in helping you achieve your resolutions. They say it’s important not to focus on perfection, but to instead celebrate the fact that you’re embarking on a journey to change your habits and become an improved version of yourself.

In their words, you should “set your sights on finishing that marathon, not on running it.  If you compete to complete, you’ll be a winner even if you wind up walking as much as you run.” So rather than putting extra pressure on yourself or becoming discouraged when it seems like you’re not getting there fast enough, take a moment to say thank you to yourself for embarking on a path that will lead you somewhere that you want to be, and then keep on moving. However slowly you may travel, every bit of effort counts.

Here’s to a prosperous, healthy new year!

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