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In One Year, Out the Other

This year, try giving resolutions a rest and just do your best.

The Hardest Thing You Ever Do? continued...

When Johnny and Janey Come-lately schlep into his gym on Jan. 2, resolved to turn their lives around with a new exercise regimen, their first training session involves a reality check to the gut, he tells WebMD.

"I tell people straight up: I'm not in this business to lie to you," St. George says. "This is going to be the hardest thing you ever do: you are turning back the hands of time. There are lot of machines in this gym, but there are no time machines."

It's OK to make New Year's resolutions, but only if you see them not as unbreakable promises to yourself, but as positive statements about possibilities, says Jason Elias, PhD, a staff psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

"What New Year's resolutions tend to be is a statement of your motivation of your intentions -- like a bit of cheerleading for yourself," he tells WebMD. "But the problem with that is that sometimes people set their goals too high, such as 'getting my life back on track,' and those things are way too big to keep track of, to know whether or not you're even making progress on them."

Elias says what can be helpful for keeping New Year's resolutions is public accountability: Make a resolution and share it with others.

"When people make a resolution and say to family and friends 'I'm going to lose weight,' that sort of 'outs' them and helps them stick to a plan," Elias says. "But if they don't have a plan, they aren't going to get very far, So the resolution should be something like, 'I'm going to wake up at 6 on Monday, put my shoes on, and go to the gym.'"

Accentuate the Positive

The problem with most New Year's resolutions is that they tend to accentuate the negative rather than latch on to the affirmative, says Lynne Brodie of Carnelian Coaching in Ashburn, Va.

"Resolutions are all about taking something away from someone," she says. "No one ever says 'I'm going to get healthy." I think if people framed it differently and made it more of a positive experience, then it would be easier for people to keep resolutions, and psychologically it would make them feel a lot better about themselves."

In her role as professional and business coach, Brodie helps clients realize that when they talk about losing 20 pounds, their goal isn't weight loss, but looking better or feeling healthier.

"And if someone comes to me and says their goal is to look better, or to feel better, there are other ways, and it may not be about weight loss," she tells WebMD.

The first and most important step to keeping New Year's resolutions, therefore, is to understand your goals, perhaps with the help of a professional who knows how to ask the right questions and help you focus on what you really want and how best to achieve it, she says.

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