Sunday, December 31, 2017

Here are some expert tips for making and keeping New Year's resolutions that will stick, and help improve your health
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

It's time again to make those New Year's resolutions. A recent national poll found that some of the most popular resolutions have to do wiht health: losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier and kicking the smoking habit.

These are all admirable goals, and some that many Kentuckians-- who lead the nation in poor health, obesity and smoking -- could take to heart, the problem seems to be sticking to them.

According to Statistic Brain, a survey-based research institute, 41 percent of Americans make a New Year's resolution, but fewer than 10 percent of them are successful, and over 40 percent of those who make a resolution will give up before the end of January, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A national poll conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion offers a bit more hope, reporting that 44 percent who make a resolution will keep it, and that 68 percent of those who made a resolution in 2017 said they kept at least a portion of the promise.

So you might ask, why even bother?

Research conducted by Dr. John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton, found that people are 10 times more likely to make a change by declaring a New Year's resolution compared to "non-resolvers." It also found that 44 percent of people who make a resolution are successful six months into the new year, ABC News reports.

The American Psychological Association offers several, common-sense suggestions to get started.

First, the psychologists say, start small and change only one behavior at a time. For example, if your overarching goal is to eat healthier, commit to eating one serving of fresh fruits or vegetables with each meal instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.

They also encourage community, noting that finding a support group increases your odds of success. And don't beat yourself up, they say, missteps are normal. Finally, they suggest seeking professional help from a psychologist or other professional if you need help changing unhealthy behaviors or addressing emotional issues.

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” psychologist Lynn Bufka told the association. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”

The New York Times sums up these ideas nicely, saying it's time for us to "resolve to set better resolutions." This author suggests we need to make sure we are resolving to change something we want to change, and not what society is telling us to change, adding that our resolutions should be clearly defined and realistic.

ABC adds that it's important to dig deep and make sure you know why you are making the resolution. For example, we all know that we need to eat better and exercise more, but the why of doing this could be different for each of us. For example, for some it could be to reduce their cholesterol levels or to get off their Type 2 diabetes medicine, but for others it may simply be to live long enough to know their grandchildren.

A separate New York Times article recommends using the SMART method when making New Year's resolutions -- an acronym that was coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 as a guideline for making goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

If you need help picking a resolution, Newsweek offers 15 simple resolutions that are linked to research supporting why they would be meaningful; many of them are related to improving your health. The first suggestion is to eat more fish, linking to another article full of research showing why that's a good idea. One example: Eating more fish helps children sleep better, improve their IQs and avoid heart disease. Some of the magazine's easy, health-related resolutions include preparing a meal at least once a week, eating a salad once a week, and spending more time outside.

USA Today, in an article originally published in Exact Sciences, also offers five easy resolutions to make and keep, with supporting evidence on how they will improve your health. They include flossing daily, scheduling a physical examination, eating vegetables instead of drinking them, eating more slowly and chewing your food longer, and going to bed 15 minutes earlier.

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