10 New Years Resolutions That Are Bad Ideas… and 10 Better Alternatives
For a living, I promote health and wellbeing – whether that’s in a workplace, teaching at college or as a health and wellness coach. And I’m happy to say I love everything about it.
Well, mostly everything. The whole concept of New Year’s Resolutions and some of the crazy (and possibly unhealthy) things people decide to take on worry me at times. I understand that a new year presents a “fresh start,” but there’s a lot that goes into making change stick, so let’s get started and see if we can set you up for success in 2017.
Here are 10 New Year’s Resolutions to avoid this year… and 10 great resolutions to replace them with:
Bad Idea 1: Making a New Year’s Resolution “Just Because”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of people trying to take steps necessary to become healthier and adopt habits more conducive to their wellbeing. What I don’t adore is the fact that people only do this because somehow a new year equates to a “new me.”
When it comes to behavior change, this is not the type of motivation to make a change — especially a big one — stick long-term. And when it doesn’t, people are left feeling down on themselves and with an overall sense of what in the &$%* is the point?
Good Idea: Find the Change That Resonates
Find what feels really important to you and decide to make changes around that. And if you realise you’re really not into doing something different on January 2nd (because none of us are doing squat on the 1st; let’s get real) then don’t.
Any time a coaching client talks about trying something because they think they should, that’s a warning to me. This kind of language signifies the internal, authentic drive to make a change is missing, which is essential when the usual day-4-and-I’m-out syndrome kicks in!
Bad Idea 2: Extreme Diet Tricks and Swearing Off Entire Food Groups
Any time someone comes to me and asks if I think a nutrition idea is a good one (usually for weight loss), I always turn it back and inquire if this is a change that can be maintained for life. I know, harsh, right? But this is something you need to get honest with yourself about.
Even if your BFF on FB got extremely quick results, they were likely achieved via some pretty drastic measures. So remember, practices such as these equate to temporary results only, as very few of us mere mortals can keep it up in the long-term.
Good idea: Minimize the Amount of Added Sugars You Consume
If you really want to lose weight, reduce the amount of sugar you eat. For added motivation when the cravings kick in, remember sugar has been clinically proven to cause aging and promote inflammation in our bodies — in addition to helping you grow that spare tire (i.e. the weight that worries your MD).
So, give stevia a try, use natural sweeteners like dates when baking, and learn how to read food labels (remember: sugar is also hidden in manufactured foods that don’t taste sweet). The nice thing about decreasing your sugar intake is that your demon sweet tooth will also diminish over time. This is one change that actually gets easier to maintain the longer you stick with it.
Bad Idea 3: Committing to Becoming a Gym Rat. Tomorrow.
If the only exercise you get is when your thumb changes the channel at night, it is highly unlikely that you are going to be able to turn into Jillian Michaels in a day. If attempted, you’ll likely set yourself up for getting injured, bloody exhausted and probably pretty disappointed, which could turn you off from exercise altogether.
Good Idea: Ease Into Exercising
When we work out, it’s not only our guns and gams that get stronger. The whole idea behind “doing cardio” is strengthening the muscles of our heart and making our lungs more efficient Resistance training done right can have the same effect.
So, just as you wouldn’t step into the squat rack for the first time and load 250lbs on the bar (please don’t!), you shouldn’t jump into an exercise program that doesn’t allow for your body to slowly build stamina over time.
Bad Idea 4: Shelling Out Tons of $$ for a Membership
We’ll continue the exercise theme, as it’s such a popular New Year’s Resolution. Let’s address the oodles of money that gets spent on January 2nd (or 5th…) when people sign up for memberships to activities they’ve never done before and may never use after the first two weeks.
Remember, exercise is not something that makes most people jump for joy. So, why would someone set aside time (of which they have very little) and money (which they have even less of after the holidays) to do something that they don’t even know if they like?
Good Idea: Try Before You Buy
In the world where online deals sites run aplenty, we all have the option to try out different kinds of gym memberships, exercise classes, or recreational clubs before we have to fully commit.
Make an informed investment by doing your research and trying out a few different places. If you can get your BFF to come along, there’s even a greater chance that you’ll have fun and enjoy yourself!
Bad Idea 5: Going It Alone
We live in a culture where silly notions like “Every wo/man for her/himself” is promoted, leaving many people to venture forth on their New Year’s Resolution journey as a solo flyer. But, this too, sets many of us up for failure.
If you don’t get the support you need during the times you’re trying to change yourself, you’ll be left wanting to throw in the towel — or throw it at someone.
Good Idea: Find a Partner in Crime
When coaching clients, one of the questions I ask right off the top is who do they have to turn to when the changes they want begin to lose their appeal. Because in all likelihood, this will happen.
Ask your spouse, your best friend, or a co-worker if they’d like to join you, or maybe think of hiring the type of coach best-suited to the challenge you’re taking on. Having a person in your corner increases the accountability factor exponentially, but also gives you someone to celebrate your successes with (and to complain to when you can’t do one. more. rep.)
Bad Idea 6: Doing a Crazy Cleanse
Once all the holiday shenanigans are over and our blood is more viscous than it should be, it’s natural that a cleanse might sound appealing. But many go too far and try to exist solely on things like maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper — for the whole day!
The only thing a strict cleanse like this will do is sap you of your will to live and make you hate everything about life as you know it (a feeling sure to be mirrored by those who cross your path).
Good Idea: Cut Out the Crap and Eat Cleanly
When our body’s natural cleansing organs go to work (oh hay, liver!) they require energy and the proper nutrients to reverse all the damage your holiday shenanigans have caused. So, do your bod a favor and cut out the junk.
Replace the eggnog and Advent chocolates with basic, easy-to-digest sustenance like veggies and fruit, whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, healthy fats from nuts and avocados, and lean protein. Give that a go for at least two weeks and you’ll notice a huge difference, I promise. And your body (and its hardworking vascular system) will thank you.
Bad Idea 7: Trying All the Things, All at Once
When we feel inspired, it’s natural to try and take on everything that feels exciting and enticing. Do a cleanse! Join a gym! Write for an hour every day! Start meditating! Join a club! Take up a new hobby! Start prepping all your meals for the month ahead of time! And so on.
The notion of doing a 180 on ourselves when the year is new is not likely to prove successful because it’s just too much all at once. As much as you want to (and believe you can) change it all, it’s better to go slow and be deliberate about the changes you make.
Good Idea: Choose Only One Change (Or Two) to Focus On
When it comes to shifting behavior and creating new habits, our brains are resistant son-of-a-guns. And as frustrating as that might be, it makes sense, since you are basically asking your brain to rewire itself.
Instead of overloading your brain with too many changes, focus on only one or two things you want to work on and progress at a slow and steady pace. Remember the story of the turtle and the hare? You’re the turtle now.
This way your brain can accommodate what you’re asking, thus increasing the chance that the new habits stick!
Bad Idea 8: Never Feeling Stressed Again!
Does the idea of having absolutely no cares in the world seem appealing to you? It sounds kinda blissful to me! It totally makes sense why this would be an appealing New Year’s Resolution for many.
Unfortunately, telling yourself you’re never going to get stressed out again won’t magically make it happen. Sadly.
Good Idea: Start Learning About What Causes Your Worries
There are very common things which stress many of us out – it’s part of the human condition. But there are other things that might cause one person to worry, where another wouldn’t even bat an eye. So before you can “stress–less,” it’s important to sort out the unique things that bother you (journal, anyone?), and start practicing some ways to help yourself when those situations present themselves.
There are many great (free!) resources you can find online, like guided mediations and mindfulness exercises. It’s also worth checking to see if your your workplace offers something through your benefit plan.
So, you won’t make the stressors go away, but instead you will better prepare yourself to handle them so they don’t cause you as much grief moving forward.
Bad Idea 9: Giving Up After 2 Weeks
Nobody resolves to give up after 2 weeks, but they might as well be when they choose New Year’s Resolutions that are too hard, unclear, or too far removed from their current lifestyle. Of course, we’ve all been there – we know how frustrating it can be when you’re struggling with something new.
Maybe it’s too hard, or not working the way you like, so Old You begins to not look so bad after all, and slowly you slip back into your familiar habits. There’s always next year, right?
Good Idea: Stick It Out for at Least 6 Months
Yikes! I know that looks like an eternity – but studies show this is when your new habit really has a chance of sticking around and taking hold. Remember that brain rewiring we talked about before? It doesn’t happen overnight.
How do we get to that magic 6-month mark? See the next (good) idea…
Bad Idea 10: Just Wingin’ Your New Year’s Resolution
Some of us secretly hope that if we just “put it out there” and say what changes we would like to see, the powers that be will step in and magically take care of the rest. Deep down we know it doesn’t work that way, but it’s so easy to keep hoping.
Unfortunately, this approach increases the likelihood that when things don’t happen as easily as we’d hoped, we quickly lose faith and bail – blaming our failure on anything and anyone but ourselves.
Good Idea: Creating Goals and a Plan to Accomplish Them
Those who set goals have been proven time and again to be more successful and often feel a greater sense of satisfaction with their lives. This applies to New Year’s Resolutions, too!
Any time I work with clients, we create good ol’ SMART goals (they’re not just for your performance reviews!). Although they might be a pain, SMART goals force us to slow down and think strategically. Thankfully, doing this work also highlights the necessary next-steps to take, as well as the plan of attack.
And voila! Our recipe for success is born!
Lauren Brown MSc. WWHP, is a certified Health & Wellness Coach who loves teaching about all facets of health and wellbeing. Much of her time is spent in workplaces, helping empower employees to get healthy through the wellness programming initiatives and educational sessions she delivers. Please see www.inspiringhealth.ca for more information.