Monday Medical: This new year, think small
December 31, 2018
Want to make a few New Year's resolutions, but afraid you're going to fail? Try being smart about your goals.
"People are so hard on themselves when it comes to goals," said Lisa Bankard, employee well-being program manager at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. "Instead, you should make goals as small and simple as you can so you set yourself up for success."
SMART goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time sensitive. For instance, instead of resolving to exercise more, you might resolve to walk 20 minutes around the neighborhood before heading to work on weekdays, or to ride the stationary bike if the weather is bad.
"Be positive and consistent," Bankard said. "You can always do more once you're successful."
Keeping goals SMART helps set you up for success. And that success, small as it might be, can snowball into bigger, positive changes.
Below, Bankard gives tips for achieving common New Year's resolutions, five to 10 minutes at a time.
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Eating more healthfully and losing weight is one of the most common resolutions. "It can be so overwhelming in terms of all the changes you want to make," Bankard said.
Instead of focusing only on foods to eliminate or cut back on, Bankard recommends thinking about the healthy foods you want to add to your diet, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. For instance, one SMART goal might be to eat two pieces of fruit and something green every day.
Follow through for 21 days, and you'll likely have formed a habit. "Once you start having success, you can set your next goal,'" Bankard said.
One small, clear step towards this goal is to be active for ten minutes most days. Though ten minutes may not seem like much, you'll still reap benefits, including improved brain function.
"Maybe it's just a ten-minute walk around the block," Bankard said. "Make it small. After three weeks, you might be saying, 'Boy, I actually feel a little better, imagine if I did a little more."
Other options include: tightening your core every time you're stopped at a traffic light, or doing a short burst of 25 sit-ups, 25 pushups and a wall sit for 25 seconds. "Look for moments of opportunity where you can fit in fitness," Bankard said.
From decreased stress to improved attention, there are multiple benefits that come from practicing mindfulness.
"Start off with just three minutes of not letting your mind wander," Bankard said. "You can actually start to create this habit. Then, as things come up during the day and you want to have a knee-jerk reaction, you don't, because you've been practicing this mindful, quiet response."
"It's easy to get stuck thinking about the negative," Bankard said. "But when you start focusing on what you're grateful for, it really sets you up for success because you're focused on the positive."
For the biggest benefit, list out things you're grateful for. "When you think it, say it and write it, the thought engrains itself in your brain a little more," Bankard said.
Whatever your New Year's resolution may be, think SMART and small.
"When we try to set lofty goals, we almost set ourselves up for not meeting them to begin with," Bankard said. "The key is to be easier on ourselves and take small steps. They do count. They can count for big changes."
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.