8 Tips for Making and Keeping Healthy New Year's Resolutions

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR

If you are the type of person who makes but never keeps New Year's resolutions, these suggestions can help you make healthy -- and attainable -- goals this year.

  1. Don't abandon the idea of setting resolutions because you have broken them in the past. You may need to simply readjust the type and number of goals you're setting for yourself.
  1. Do be realistic. A resolution to run a marathon by year's end is likely unrealistic for an inexperienced exerciser. Likewise, resolving to stop all your unhealthy habits at once is likely to fail. Pick a safe, attainable goal with a realistic time frame. For example, if your resolution is to eat healthier, begin by eliminating one unhealthy food from your diet at a time, not all unhealthy foods.
  1. Don't make too many resolutions. There's no rule that you have to cover all areas you'd like to change in your resolutions. Pick one or two themes -- such as anger management, stress control, healthy eating, smoking cessation, fitness improvement, career advancement -- that are most important to you, and set reachable goals within these areas.
  1. Don't set resolutions whose success is based upon factors beyond your control. Saying "I resolve to have a new job by summer" depends not only upon your own initiative but also upon external factors (the economy, the job market in your field) over which you have no control. Instead tell yourself, "I resolve to have updated my résumé and sent it out to X companies by summer." That way, the success of your resolution is entirely within your control.
  1. Do set resolutions based upon your own wishes, desires, goals, and dreams and not those of society or those persons close to you. While this seems obvious, many people waste time trying to meet society's, or another person's, expectations. A resolution is bound to fail if it isn't from your heart.
  1. Do plan intermediate goals if it helps you maintain control. Decide where you'd like to be in three or six months, and check yourself then. Achieving these smaller goals also gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivation for the bigger projects.
  1. Do use the buddy system. Rely on your friends to support you in your resolutions, and do the same for your friends. Social support can be a great strengthener of motivation.
  1. Do plan a reward for yourself when the resolutions, or intermediate goals, are met.
Stöppler, Melissa Conrad. "Stress Management." MedicineNet.com. Aug. 24, 2011. <https://www.medicinenet.com/stress_management_techniques/article.htm>.