It happens to everyone right about now: The luster of the new year has started to fade and those resolutions you were so excited about on January 1 are starting to feel like more and more work. But wait! Before you feel defeated or throw in the towel, know that there are a few tricks that can make sticking to your resolutions a whole lot easier.
Embrace your new identity. Do you say things like, “I’m not really an exerciser but I’m trying to make myself go to the gym”? If so, you’re fighting an uphill battle. “Self-talk is really important, so label yourself as the person you want to be,” says John Fawkes, a certified personal trainer and online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles. “You don’t have to earn a label by going to the gym every day for a year — you can start thinking of yourself as an exerciser now.”
Lose the “all or nothing” mindset. “People think they need to be perfect all the time, so when they have a cupcake because they were in the break room at work, they get upset and give up,” says Darleen Barnard, a certified personal trainer based in Las Vegas and owner of Fit4Health. “Then they spiral from there, skipping the gym and having pizza for dinner.” A better approach is to aim for an 80 percent success rate. “If you build in the expectation of a few treats or a day off from the gym, you won’t feel like you’re off-course when that happens,” says Barnard.
Tap into your internal drive to be better. “You have a natural desire to become a better version of yourself,” says Susan Weinschenk, PhD, a psychologist based in Wisconsin and chief behavioral scientist at The Team W. “But to make it work for you, you need a combination of control and freedom.” For exercise, that might mean promising to do at least 10 minutes of purposeful movement every day, but what exactly that looks like is up to you. One day it might be jogging with your dog while another it can be bodyweight exercises before bed.
Avoid certain social settings. “Try to put yourself into an environment that’s supportive of your goals whenever possible,” says Fawkes. Maybe skip the trivia night where your friends will push you to eat chicken wings and pizza. Instead, reach out to your friend who loves working out and see if he or she’d be up for taking an exercise class together.
Focus on the process, not the end goal. While wanting to lose a certain amount of weight is a good reason to start being healthier, you need to focus on what steps you’re going to take to get there. “If weight loss is the motivation and the scale doesn’t move as fast as you want it to, you’re going to want to give up,” says Barnard. “You need to feel like you have control over your success or not, so focus on what you can actually do, like getting in a certain number of steps a day.”
Turn it into a habit as fast as possible. “The thing about habits is the are powerful—you end up doing them every day automatically,” says Weinschenk. “To start a new one, connect it to a habit that already exists and set up a visual cue so you aren’t just relying on your memory.” Want to start doing more strength training in the morning before getting ready for work? Hang a resistance band over your towel so you don’t forget.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.