Making Resolutions That Last

January 2017 is flying by. Before you know it, February will be here. And spring really is right around the corner (let’s keep telling ourselves that!). So, how’s it going with those resolutions that you set on January 1? Going well? Excellent? Or is it more like, “Resolutions? What resolutions?” If you’re in the latter camp, take comfort in the fact that you’re in excellent company. This week, we’ll take a look at what can help you stay on track with your resolutions or goals — and at any time of the year, too.

A bit about resolutions
The Statistic Brain Research Institute recently released results from a survey conducted on about 1200 people on January 1, 2017. Here are some interesting outcomes from that survey:

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• Of the top resolutions set, the number one resolution was to eat healthier and lose weight.

• Forty-one percent of Americans usually set resolutions; 42% of those folks never succeed at keeping them.

• About 73% of people maintain their resolutions during the first week; by six months, 45% have maintained them.

Clearly, resolutions don’t seem to last for many people. And a lot of us make jokes about this, too. I heard a radio show play a fake ad for a “January gym,” which is a gym that’s only open for the month of January and closes down after that. Of course, it’s not funny to lay down money for a gym membership that never or rarely gets used.

Changing course
Whether you make resolutions every January 1, or set goals for yourself throughout the year, the key is to set goals that make sense for you. We all have aims and goals in life that we strive for, but unless we have a plan to get there, we may never reach them. What can we do differently? It’s time to look at goal setting in a different light. Here are some tips to get you started:

Set SMART goals. The acronym stands for:
• S: specific
• M: measurable
• A: achievable
• R: realistic
• T: time-bound

Let’s look at an example of a “not-so-SMART” goal: I’ll exercise more this year.

This goal is practically doomed to fail. What will you do for exercise? When? How? For how long? Is it realistic for you? Are you able to do it? How will you know if you’ve met this goal?

Here’s how to turn this into a SMART goal: I’ll walk for 20 minutes after dinner three times a week for the next two weeks.

What do you think about that goal? Seems more doable, doesn’t it? And after two weeks, you can reevaluate and decide to continue or perhaps change it.

Change one behavior at a time. Sure, you want to eat better, lower your HbA1c, exercise more, lose weight, and find a new job — all at once. It’s great to be ambitious, but realistically, how much can you really accomplish at the same time? And remember, while you’re setting a new habit, you’re breaking an old, perhaps unhealthy habit at the same time. Try not to bite off more than you can chew.

Schedule it in. How can you achieve your goals if you don’t make time to work on them? If a goal or resolution is truly important to you, you need to make time for it. Schedule time to be active on your calendar. Set aside time to check your blood sugars. Spend part of your weekend preparing healthy meals for the week ahead. Think of them like appointments that you must keep.

Track your progress. Remember the “M” in “SMART” goals? “M” stands for “measurable.” How do you really know how you’re doing on your goal or resolution? Track it! Use a smartphone app or a spreadsheet to log your food, exercise, or blood sugar readings. Keep a journal of your progress. Do what works best for you, but know where you stand.

Use the “if-then” approach when things go awry. And things will go awry. You might get laid up with a bad cold and fall off the exercise wagon. You might indulge in eating less-than-healthy foods and blow your carb budget while binge-watching your favorite TV show. Or you might forget to take your bedtime insulin three times in a week because you fell asleep early. These things happen; we’re only human, after all. So, plan for it. Decide what you’ll do when you feel like you’ve blown it. The “if-then” approach can help. Examples:

• If I can’t fit my afternoon walk in today because it’s supposed to rain, I’ll find a YouTube exercise video that I like and do that instead.

• If I exceed my mealtime carb goal at dinner, I’ll march in place and use my resistance bands while watching TV after dinner.

Get support. How you do this is up to you. Maybe you share your goal with your family, a friend, or a co-worker. If you’re a social media fan, post your intent or progress on Facebook or Twitter. Doing so can help you be accountable. If you feel your resolve is waning, join an online community to help cheer you on. We can’t always do everything on our own. It’s OK to ask for support and help.

Use visualization. It’s easy to picture ourselves kicking back on the beach, soaking up the rays. You can use visualization to help you reach your goals. Once you determine what your goal is, envision how you’ll make it happen. Then visualize how you’ll feel once you achieved it.

Celebrate successes. No success is too small. If you walked 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes one day, call up your best friend and let him know. If you lost weight and were able to cut back on your medication dose, go see a movie. If you kept your blood sugars within range for an entire day, get a manicure. Do something nice for yourself. You’ve worked hard, and you deserve it!

Even after decades of living with diabetes, new ideas and advice from friends with the condition can sometimes make all the difference, says Amy Mercer. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to read more.