Unfortunately, research shows that just 8% of Americans were successful at achieving their New Year’s resolutions last year, although nearly half of Americans made one. So, what’s the problem and how can we help?
“I think focusing on too many goals at a time is a problem,” said Azar Nikravesh, MS, IUHC Assistant Director of Holistic Health and Stress Management. “Having one larger goal while setting doable yet challenging weekly goals to move towards the larger goal is a much better way to change behavior.”
The most common resolution made in 2015 was to lose weight. Want to give it a try and be successful? When looking at healthy eating plans, try to make changes that will be sustainable.
“Temporary changes in your eating will only make temporary changes to your weight,” said Katie Shepherd, IUHC Registered Dietitian, MS, CD, and #CookWithKatie blogger. “Students interested in developing a healthy eating plan with a registered and certified dietitian can sign up for a weight control package through Health and Wellness education. For those who have paid their health fee, your first appointment is free, and you’ll receive five nutrition follow-ups within the same semester for just $75. Nutrition counseling is also available to all full time employees and spouses on a medical plan.”
When looking at your diet, choose one or two concrete things you feel you can improve, write them down, and track your progress. Once you’ve mastered these, feel free to add in others (but don’t forget what you started with!).
“Try to eat more fruit and vegetables every day,” said Bobbie Saccone, Ph.D., RD., CD, IUHC Assistant Director of Health and Wellness Education, and Nutrition Program Manager. “Keep a list of how many times each day you eat at least a baseball size portion of a fruit or veggie. If you’re hardly eating any, start with one serving of each daily. Want to be a rock star? Aim for 2-4 fruits and 3-5 vegetables daily and vary your color.”
Another helpful suggestion is to pack snacks. Packing healthy snacks for the day in your backpack, purse, car, or another accessible place will limit emergency trips to the vending machine or convenience store. Try packing nuts, trail mixes, dry whole grain cereals or crackers, fruit, and bars without too much sugar.
Is part two of your weight loss goal starting a new workout routine? Keep in mind the importance of incorporating your personal interests into what you choose.
“If your resolution is going to include something physical or active as a goal, make sure you choose something you love doing,” said Nick Metzger, IMU Wellness Center Office Administrator. “Do you like gardening, walking, swimming, running, yoga, playing with your kids, indoor rock climbing, riding a bike, or even cleaning the house? Physical activity doesn’t have to be going to the gym five days a week and resolving to lift weights or do stomach crunches and planks. What’s most important is choosing something fun to you. You’ll still be lapping the folks sitting on the couch. Also, be realistic about how often you plan to do your chosen activities. If you set a goal to work out seven days a week, you’ll quickly find that is nearly impossible for most people to meet.”
Healthy IU dietician, Steven Lalevich, RD, emphasizes the importance of getting sleep in meeting any resolution.
“Lack of sleep weakens your willpower and self-control, making it more difficult to stick with your resolution,” he said. “Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.”
A new year is also a great time to reevaluate the role alcohol plays in your life.
“Simple adjustments such as downloading and using a drink tracking app, switching from hard liquor to only beer, or gifting yourself with a tolerance vacation, can make a big difference in your overall health,” said Jackie Daniels, MSW, LCSW, Director, OASIS Alcohol and Drug Support Center. “For help creating your own change plan, email email@example.com or call 812-856-3898 for an appointment. For a one-time fee of $25, a trained counselor can help you create a plan to meet your individual goals, over one or two sessions.”
Want to try a simple two-part resolution that can enhance your emotional well being and assist others as well? Part one relates to gratitude.
“Make it a point to take a few moments each day to focus on something for which you are grateful,” said Dr. Nancy Stockton, Director of IUHC’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Develop a good ‘gratitude’ habit by pairing gratitude focus moments with something you do regularly such as brushing your teeth or drinking a morning cup of coffee. We are less likely to forget to do things when we make them a regular habit. Cultivating positivity certainly is one way of improving the quality of our life.”
Now for part two. Do something especially nice for someone each day. Acts might range from taking a sick friend a bowl of soup or making a contribution to a favorite charity. Find meaningful volunteer activities.
“Doing for others not only helps them but it helps ourselves as well,” Stockton said. “For other tips on how to lower stress and increase emotional health, students can try one of the CAPS Monday Motivator workshops or Web Wednesdays.”
Here’s an interesting tidbit: when recovering from a stressful situation, participants in a study who were smiling had lower heart rates than those with a neutral facial expression.
“My New Year’s resolution is simply to make eye contact with others on campus as I’m walking along and give them a real smile–one that makes the skin at the corners of my eyes crinkle,” said Barbara Moss, IU Health Fair Coordinator and IUHC Assistant Director for Educational Outreach. “I know that smiling, even smiles that are a bit forced, definitely lowers stress and anxiety for both the giver and the receiver. Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins and makes us feel better. Smiling is free, takes almost no energy, and the benefits can truly tilt a day to the positive.”
Another common resolution is to quit smoking. Looking for help with tobacco use? According to the CDC, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease. Check out our Refresh IU program for students and employees! IU Bloomington is a tobacco-free campus and we are here to help you with a new grant from the American Cancer Society and the CVS Health Foundation’s Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative.
Unsure how to move forward with your resolutions alone? Try Adulting IU, our student wellness coaching program, or Wellness at Work, our employee version. We’ll help you set goals and attain them. Students, you can even charge it to your bursar bill!
Happy New Year and good luck!