6 ways to make your 2018 resolutions stick in the new year

A new year is a new start, and with it often comes a fresh determination to find a “better” version of ourselves. Whether it’s to lose weight, eat healthier, spend less money or invest more time with loved ones, we all strive for self-improvement. No matter how long this motivation lasts, New Year’s resolutions always seem to be high on our priority list in January and fall to the wayside by March. So, how can you increase the odds of success and make your resolutions stick this year? Here are six ways to sustain long-lasting changes.

1. Make small, attainable goals

Make your resolution one that is manageable to obtain and almost seems “easy” to start. Then once it becomes a habit, build from there. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, don’t promise to hit the gym seven days a week. Instead, start with three days a week of activities you really enjoy. After a few months, reevaluate if you want to step things up a notch. If you want to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something you enjoy that is good for you. Keep healthy and convenient staple foods on hand like frozen blueberries to blend up a nutritious smoothie, like this chocolate chunk blueberry smoothie. While it tastes like dessert, this smoothie offers 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber for staying power.

2. Get specific

Rather than a vague resolution to “eat healthier,” get specific about what you want to accomplish and set a clear initiative on how to achieve it. For example, if you want to eat less “junk” and more fresh, plant-based foods you might develop three steps to achieving this: 1) start each morning with an easy and healthy staple meal you won’t get bored with, like oatmeal with berries and almonds, 2) each night take 15 minutes to pack a healthy lunch to bring to work the next day, and 3) commit to cooking one new plant-based dinner on the weekends. To make your intentions stick even more, enter your steps into your phone calendar and set them to recurring, so each day you’ll get a friendly reminder.

3. Find an accountability buddy or group

It’s so much easier to accomplish a goal when you have a good support system. This year, find a friend or family member who has a similar resolution; you can rely on each other for accountability and support while making memories and accomplishing goals. Or consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers committed to eating healthy lunches at work. Having someone to support you through your struggles and successes will make your good intentions much more likely to stick.

4. Safeguard your environment

When your motivation is low, your environment becomes all the more powerful in terms of helping or hindering your healthy living intentions. If you make healthy foods easily accessible throughout your kitchen and workplace, it’s more likely you will eat them first. For example, swap out potato chips for pistachios. Unlike potato chips, pistachios offer a good source of plant-protein and fiber, with over three times as many pieces per serving. Pistachios offer about 49 nuts per serving, compared to about 15 potato chips. The more you increase your “food exposure” to healthy foods, the more likely your resolutions will stick. 

5. Make it personal

In addition to what you want to accomplish, think about why it’s important to you. For example, losing weight to improve your self-confidence is a personal motivation as opposed to losing weight because someone made a negative comment about your appearance. Whether it’s enhancing your self-esteem or having more energy to play with your grandkids, determine your inner motivation and write it down somewhere so that it will personally inspire you to stay on track.

6. Focus on progress, not perfection

Perfection is unattainable. Shoot for “pretty good.” Don’t beat yourself up with minor mishaps like you ate dessert because you were stressed or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. You will have ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track. The reality is most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a day and underestimate what they can accomplish in a year. If you do “pretty good” all year long, by end of year you will feel really good about what you have achieved.

Patricia Bannan is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications.  She is the author of "Eat Right When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes." Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.