By Nick Davis, MD
Planning your New Year’s resolutions? What you can do now to set yourself up for success in 2021
If you’re like many Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, you’re likely making some that impact your health.
A survey conducted in December 2019 by YouGov found that five of the top six most common resolutions pertained to health and wellness: Exercise more, eat more healthfully, lose weight, reduce stress and sleep more (‘save money’ was number two in the top six.) (Of course, at that time, we had no idea what 2020 would bring. If you found yourself spending more time in front of a screen and stress eating or less time exercising during the pandemic, you may already be planning a renewed emphasis on your health in 2021.) While the New Year seems like a fitting time to reassess and evaluate your annual goals, there are things you can do now—in preparation for 2021—to set yourself up for success.
Schedule your annual wellness exam— now! Even during lock-downs and pandemics, primary healthcare providers are still available, and many are able to schedule telehealth appointments. Even if you’re relatively healthy, it’s still important to see your doctor annually. If you’re considering health goals for the New Year, now is the perfect time to schedule time with your provider. He or she can help you determine which goals might make the most sense for you, and help you set reasonable, attainable and measurable goals (See SMART goals below!) that can have a big impact on your health.
Make SMART goals. Speaking of setting goals, it’s important to set ones that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. So many of us strive to “lose weight,” but what if we set a goal of “losing five pounds of fat in January by limiting calories and exercising”? By following the SMART guidelines, we not only have specifics, but we’re more likely to be able to formulate a plan to achieve our goals. Working with your healthcare provider, you can develop SMART goals—and he or she can provide advice on ways to achieve those goals, and help hold you accountable. Need to lower your cholesterol and want to try diet and exercise before medication? Talk to your provider now about a realistic goal, steps to take to achieve it, and when to measure your progress.
Make a plan—and prepare. With the holidays approaching quickly and the New Year less than two weeks away, it’s easy to put off plans until 2021. But experts suggest making a detailed plan is one way to increase your likelihood of achieving your goals. Similar to using SMART goals, making a plan in advance gives you a roadmap to follow. Use these next weeks before the New Year to begin formulating the HOW, and prepare to hit the ground running in 2021. Looking to lose five pounds of fat in January? Begin planning your meals and workouts now so you won’t feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the year. Take stock of the things you’ll need, like comfortable exercise clothes and good sneakers, maybe an air fryer to cut calories in some of your go-to recipes, and get all the tools in place that you’ll need to start anew on January 1.
Finally, enlist help—either through educational resources, professionals (like your healthcare provider or a wellness coach), or family and friends. Experts can help you prioritize and plan, and friends and family can provide encouragement and accountability to keep you motivated when your enthusiasm wanes. Online support groups or apps can help you document your journey so you can track what works best for you. With so many tools available, your healthcare provider can help you find what makes the most sense for your goals. Getting the help you need now can set you up for success when you implement your wellness strategies. Ready to live your healthiest life in 2021? Talk to your provider (or schedule an appointment with Dr. Davis now) to put your resolutions in place now.