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small meaningful health goals: women at the gym

New Year’s Resolution Flop? Focus On These Small But Meaningful Goals Instead

If you’re ready to throw in the towel on your New Year’s Resolution (or have already waved the white flag of defeat), you might feel pretty down right now—but there’s no need to be discouraged or ashamed. Truthfully, resolutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, most resolutions don’t come to fruition because they feel overwhelming and people don’t clearly map out how to achieve them, says licensed psychologist Lienna Wilson, Psy.D. So if you’re ready to drop your lofty resolutions, drop away! Consider this your invitation to focus on more modest, achievable goals this year. 

Instead of vowing to go from couch to six-pack, overhaul everything about the way you eat, or quit your desk job to become a Bali-based social media star, take some pressure off. Even small but meaningful changes can have a big impact on your overall health and wellness. Not sure where to start? We’ve got your guide.

Time For A Mindset Shift

By definition, a resolution is a firm decision to do (or not to do) something—and that itself is part of the problem, explains Abbey Heagney, a health and mindset coach certified through the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching. “This definition feels heavy and creates an all-or-nothing mentality since you’re either doing it or you’re not,” she says. “More often than not, this framing leads you to not do whatever it is you vowed to do.”

That’s why Heagney instead likes to emphasize New Year’s intentions, which emphasize creating more space for life to happen. This way, instead of giving up because you miss a day or two (or more!), you shift your mindset back to your intended result and carry on. Because intentions, like life, are fluid, you can always pick back up after falling off without feeling like you’ve failed in some way. 

Read More: 5 Signs Of A Sustainable Weight-Loss Plan

Another helpful shift? Focus on new decisions instead of a new you. After all, your decisions determine whether or not you reach your goal, and you decide whether to keep going or give up, says Heagney. So, hone in on reinventing your decisions instead of feeling like you have to reinvent yourself. “Focus on decisions that make you feel proud, that inspire you, and that move you closer to your goal,” she says.

Get Started With These Achievable Goals

Feeling empowered to take a new approach to your health goals this year? Here are 7 totally achievable intentions to try out, straight from the experts themselves.

1. Add More Goodness To Your Plate

Let 2023 be the year you ditch restriction by reframing how you approach eating. “Focus on what you can add to your plate, which shifts you out of feeling deprived and into feeling in control,” says Heagney. Think more colorful foods, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and nutrient-dense carbs. This way, you can level up your overall nutrition in a way that feels sustainable and enjoyable. 

Of course, you can mix this up based on your individual needs. Want to build more muscle this year? Set out to include more protein in each of your snacks and meals, and let the rest be! 

Vegetables, which offer high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, are also a good place to start. That’s why dietitian Samantha Cassetty, R.D., recommends adding one serving of each to every meal in 2023. “Start with the veggies you like the most and serve them as a side dish or folded into meals, like pasta, omelets, smoothies, and egg dishes,” she says.

2. Become Best Friends With Your Water Bottle 

Drinking more water is a small habit with a huge payoff. Research continually shows that poor hydration can take a toll on your mood, focus, and energy levels. Plus, proper hydration is crucial for regulating body temperature, lubricating your joints, preventing infection, delivering nutrients to cells, and keeping organs functioning properly, according to research out of Harvard School of Public Health.  

Read More: Are You Dehydrated Without Even Knowing It?

If you could benefit from more H2O but feel intimidated, try this: Fill up a 20-ounce water bottle when you wake up and try to finish it by lunch, suggests Cassetty. Then, refill it and try to empty it again by dinnertime. (If you still haven’t gone in on a reusable water bottle, this is your sign. Picking out a cool bottle might just motivate you to tote it around with you—and sip, sip, sip—all day.)

3. Sharpen Your Cooking Skills

Restaurants and prepared meals are notoriously high in salt, not-so-wholesome fats, and sugar, so when you cook more meals at home, you can reduce the amount of these ingredients in your diet, according to Cassetty. In fact, a 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine linked eating more than five home-cooked meals per week with better diet quality and higher intakes of vegetables and fruit, compared with eating fewer than three home-cooked meals per week.

“Make it a goal to try one new veggie recipe per week,” Cassetty suggests. “The biggest hurdles to cooking more often are time and confidence, but you can start with quick veggie-forward recipes and use pre-prepped ingredients to overcome these challenges.” As you continue to expand your recipe horizons, your health (and wallet!) will thank you.

4. Tune Into Your Hunger and Fullness Signals 

One surefire way to improve your relationship with food this year is to give your body a voice. “It’s so common to override hunger and fullness signals, eating when you are more bored than hungry, or overeating to the point of discomfort,” says Cassetty. To shift away from that, “practice pausing before you eat to assess whether you’re really hungry,” she recommends. “If you’re not, find something else that would be more helpful.” 

If you realize you’re actually bored, take a five-to-10-minute walk for a change of scenery or play an online word game. If you are hungry, serve yourself the amount of food you think would be comfortable to eat. Then, when you’re about three-fourths done, pause and consider if you’d like to eat more, and how that would feel, Cassetty suggests. “When you eat to the point of contentment, you’ll have more energy and feel physically better after meals with less digestive upset,” she explains. 

5. Experiment With Your Daily Routine

Sure, life is busy, but if you’re looking for greater ease and efficiency throughout the day this year, you’ve got to take a hard look at how you organize your days. With a little honesty and strategic planning, you can ward off stress and make your schedule work better for you.

“Be mindful of how you use your time in order to see the most success”, suggests Wilson. A few things to consider: when to schedule exercise and other personal time, which days tend to be most hectic, and what new habits you want to make stick. If you’re not a morning person, try exercising after work, Wilson suggests. If you know that Wednesday is your busiest day, find another evening to hit up a yoga class (because stressing about yoga kind of defeats the purpose, no?). And if you need help with consistency, planning to do certain tasks at the same time every day can help make the routine stick.

6. Start Mornings On A Positive Note

One simple way to have a better day? Start your morning off with gratitude. While you wait for your coffee to brew or your tea kettle to warm, jot down three things you’re grateful for, suggests Heagney. Don’t have a journal handy? Make a point to mentally list out what you’re grateful for while you stand in line at your local coffee shop or wait for the shower to heat up. Tacking a quick gratitude practice onto something you already do in the morning will help you remember to do it—and you’ll feel the positive impact of the practice all day long.

7. Commit To Resistance Training 

Getting strong takes time, but if you’re new to fitness and hoping to level up your strength, commit to resistance training three times a week, says personal trainer Cara Carmichael, C.P.T., founder of Team Humble Yourself. While setting the goal of getting stronger, lifting a certain amount, or looking a certain way leaves you without an action plan and feels unattainable, committing to a specific process-oriented goal—like strength training three times a week—keeps you focused on the little wins that ladder up to big results. 

Read More: Research Confirms Resistance Training Is Where It’s At For Weight Loss

Why three times a week? Research shows it’s all you need to maximize muscle growth. Just remember to space your training days out with a day of rest in between to allow your body to adapt and recover, Carmichael notes. 

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