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Start exercising? Check. More Quality Time? Check. Better Outlook? Check. Change Negative Habits? Check. ​It can be daunting when your list of things you want to improve is as long as your shopping list. Thinking about all you have to or want to have positive changes may increase your anxiety. The frustration of an unused gym membership or other reminders of failed intentions can make you feel hopeless.

However, it is essential to remember that promises to change are only a catalyst for all-embracing character changes. It is not productive for people to reflect on their past inconsistent behaviors and failed promises to make positive lifestyle changes. 

“The key is setting small, attainable goals instead of a grand singular, overwhelming goal. Small steps can help you reach whatever it is you strive for and give you the confidence to continue.” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D. “Remember, it is not the extent of the changes that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that positive lifestyle changes are important and working toward them, one step at a time is the only way to achieve lasting success.”

By making your goals realistic, there is a higher chance that you will make them part of your lifestyle and incorporate healthy behavior into your everyday life. 

The American Psychological Association offers these tips when thinking about a New Year’s resolution:

​Start Small 

Make commitments that you believe you can keep. If, for example, you aim to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something healthy you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.

​Change One Behavior at a Time 

Unhealthy behaviors develop over time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.

​Talk About It 

​Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up 

Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up entirely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

​Ask for Support 

​Accepting help from those who care about you and having someone listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable, as well as help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.

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