If you are going to any Holiday, or New Year's party this year, you can count on 'New Year's Resolutions' coming up in conversation. The year 2021 has been a blur, and time feels like it's been flying by. How can it be time already to think of your goals for 2022?!
Thinking of goals can be intimidating. Take some of the pressure off by:
Do not compare. Try not to compare your goals with others. I know this is hard, but just as everyone's life is perfectly different, their starting point for any goal will also be unique.
Think SMART. The most effective way that has been proven to help succeed at any goal, is to describe your goal using S.M.A.R.T.
SMART is an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting.
Specific: your goal should be clear and specific so you can focus your efforts and feel truly motivated to achieve it.
Measurable: it is important to have measurable goals, so you can track your progress and stay motivated.
Achievable: your goals need to be realistic and attainable to be successful.
Relevant: this steps is about making sure that your goal matters to you.
Time bound: every goal needs a target date, so you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward.
An example of a goal using the SMART method would be...
Going on a walk for 30 minutes a day, for 3 days a week for the month of January.
Here is how this goal aligns with SMART
Specific: the act of walking
Measurable: did you go on a walk 3 days out of the week (yes or no)? You can use a fun tracker, or tally system on your fridge to track your achievements!
Achievable: this step is different for everyone. The example above is using 30 minutes, but if 15, or 10 minutes is more realistic for you, use that as your goal
Relevant: the act of walking will contribute towards keeping your body healthy, which should be a high priority
Time bound: there are two deadlines here, the end of each week, and the end of January
Now that we know how to come up with healthy, realistic goal, here are 5 healthy goals to work toward in the new year. Consider picking one to focus on.
1. Participate in intentional exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week.
The American Heart Association recommends a goal of 150 minutes of moderate activity (or 5, 30 minute exercise sessions) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to keep your heart healthy. Moderate activity is exercising hard enough that you are slightly out of breath, but could still maintain a conversation during it. Vigorous activity is exercising until you're out of breath and could not maintain a conversation easily.
This goal is complete customizable. For example, if intentional exercise would be completely new for you, start with the goal of 15 minutes of intentional exercise. You can also lower the number of days per week to 3 days, and then as it gets easier to hit your goal of 3 days per week, increase it to 5 days, and so on.
2. Eat at least 5 servings fruits and/or vegetables per day.
While there are many different diets out there for people to follow, the big-picture always boils down to the same point. Eat more plants.
The World Health Organization recommends a goal of eating 9-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This might not be easy to hit off the bat. So, start with a goal of 5 per day, and increase as able.
1 serving of fruit/vegetables = 1 cup raw, or 1/2 cooked.
3. Eat dinner at home X days per week.
This is another goal I invite you to customize. In the United States, eating out is very common. Eating out can be a convenient way to get your meals, however, meals eaten outside of the home tend to be significantly higher in sodium, saturated fat, and are larger portions compared to meals made at home.
One goal for living a healthier life could be cooking more meals at home. Choose a number to fill the 'X' above that would be realistic for you.
4. Limit alcohol to an average of 1 drink per day (for women), or 2 drinks per day (for men).
Though alcohol can certainly fit into a healthy life, too much of anything can have a negative impact on health. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 7 alcoholic beverages per week for women (or average of 1 drink per day), and a limit of 14 drinks per week for men (average 2 drinks per day).
1 alcoholic beverage = 1.5 ounces of liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine.
5. Try meditating for 10 minutes per day.
Meditation is an evidenced-based way to promote mental well-being. It can be particularly helpful during the winter months when moods tend to be at a low. Try practicing meditation through breathing exercises, journalling, or just quiet contemplation.
The bottom line
Most new year's goals are forgotten by the time we get to February. Framing your goals using the SMART method helps make them sustainable to continue for the entire year. Cheers to 2022!