If you made a new year’s resolution, chances are you did so in an effort to improve your health. That says a lot about your willingness to take initiative and make positive changes for yourself and your life—even if you’ve already veered off track.
It’s quite common for people to not follow through with their new year’s resolutions. In fact, one survey done in 2019 found that only 7 percent of people stick to all the resolutions they set in the new year. There are a few possible reasons why this happens, one of them being the ritual of making annual resolutions itself.
The onset of the new year may be too sudden for people to come up with a resolution that is realistic and attainable. “Just because you’re saying you’re going to suddenly make a big change in your life usually isn’t enough to make it stick,” warns Terri Cole, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., licensed psychotherapist and author of Boundary Boss. “Our past can be predictive, so to bypass the process of understanding what did and didn’t work over the past 12 months is to skip a crucial transformative step.”
Made a new year’s resolution with good intentions but haven’t put in the necessary effort? Try not to frame it as a failure and give up entirely. Here are some expert tips for how to rebound and get those health goals back on the scoreboard.
Be kind & Rewind
Oftentimes, we are our harshest critics. Don’t make yourself feel guilty for not being able to follow through with your resolutions. Instead, have compassion for yourself. “Sometimes, remembering your intention is what matters, and you can always try to adjust your resolutions,” says Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Columbia Health and a member of the Media Advisory Group at Hope for Depression Research Foundation. “If you are harsh with yourself, you may be adding more stress and pressure in your life.”
For example, if you vowed to go to the gym four times a week but fell short, celebrate the fact that you made it at all. If that was only once or twice, reflect on some reasons why. What held you back? Then, reassess how you can remove those roadblocks as you enter a new week.
Give yourself permission for a do-over
If you want new habits to stick, it’s important to understand your old habits, notes Cole. She recommends taking a habit inventory of where you are right now. “What part of your mental, physical, or spiritual health needs your attention? What needs to change in the areas of sleep, nutrition, self-care, etc.?” she says. “Start identifying any experiences that trigger your bad habits and use this information as the foundation to build healthier habits aligned with your goals.”
Schedule your resolutions into your calendar
Instead of just saying that you’re going to do something, Cole recommends physically adding them to your calendar. “Start small and be consistent, which may look like adding 10 minutes of walking three times a week,” she says. “Remember to start small and, as new behaviors start to be integrated into what becomes your new normal, you can add more new behaviors to your calendar.”
Reward yourself by sticking with your goals
Carving out time and prioritizing new habits in your calendar is one way of ensuring accountability. But, to stay inspired, Cole recommends rewarding yourself in big and small ways for keeping your word to yourself. “It can look like new workout clothes, dedicated time to take a nap, or a luxurious soak in the tub. Or whatever feels like a reward to you,” she says.
Confide in people you know have been successful
Reach out to people you know who have had success with the goals you are looking to achieve. “You can learn a lot about how to set a new year’s resolution from people who have most likely also ‘blown’ theirs and have figured out what works for them,” says Dr. Lira de la Rosa. “If you stumble, that is also okay. Sometimes having support from others who have been through this process can help us.” You may be surprised by how much other people help you—and by how much you can learn from them.