Even if you aren’t focused on losing weight, exercising more, or getting more regular check-ups in the next few weeks, you can still put a plan in place for prioritizing your health in the coming year. When thinking about making a change of any kind, it’s important to outline and implement a plan that aligns with your unique goals and circumstances. But to set yourself up for success, you first need to start with the right goals in mind.
So how do you do that? Start by thinking SMART.
SMART is an acronym that helps you set the right kind of goals, and provides the framework for helping you put your efforts into action:
A: Attainable or Achievable
When using the SMART method, think about how to achieve overarching goals, such as eating a healthier diet, by breaking that up into concrete steps that are specific and measurable. An example could be eating one fruit or vegetable at every meal for a week. At the end of the week, add another step on top of that, such as eating two serving of vegetables at one meal each day. Continuing to add small steps is achievable, and each step is completely relevant to the overall goal. Plus, you are defining a limited timeframe to help establish the habit, so it doesn’t seem as daunting or overwhelming. The bonus in this approach: you can start setting small weekly goals right now, and get a few healthier habits under your belt before you ring in 2024!
Of course, thinking about living a healthier lifestyle in the New Year shouldn’t mean you have carte blanche to abandon healthy habits in the meantime. There are ways to enjoy the holidays and indulge a bit, without losing any progress you’ve made this year. A few tips that can help with that include:
- Stick to as many healthy habits as you can between now and the end of the year. Maintaining your sleep and exercise schedule are both great ways to ensure you don’t lose a lot of ground before the New Year.
- Enjoy special holiday treats without guilt, and then move on. Rather than trying to find a substitute for Aunt Mary’s holiday fudge, just enjoy a piece. The key is to indulge in holiday favorites you can’t get any other time of year, and bypass those that aren’t special. So, forget about Oreos and just enjoy the once a year goodies when they come around.
- Try something new. The New Year is all about embracing new habits, but trying something new during the holiday season is a great way to sample some healthy habits and think about which ones you might want to implement permanently in 2024. Curious about meditation? Now is a great time to get a one-week free trial on an app such as Calm or Headspace. Want to explore yoga or boxing? Many studios will let you try one class for free, especially during the holidays.
- Eliminate one or two “obligations” from your schedule. Most of us have a hard time saying no, especially during the holidays. But take a look at your calendar and find one or two things you can eliminate right now. Are you dreading a holiday party? Want to bow out from a gift exchange that’s run its course? Now is the time to say no to the things that don’t bring you joy or support your long-term goals. And you can use that “found” time to try something new instead!
- Prioritize water over alcohol. Thinking about doing Dry January? Make it a little easier on yourself by not over-indulging now. You can still enjoy a cup of mulled wine and toast the New Year with a glass of champagne – but don’t use the holidays as an excuse to drink alcohol beyond moderation. Limit yourself to two drinks or less no more than a few days a week. Then, even if you don’t participate in Dry January, you won’t have any holiday drinking habits you need to curb.
This article appeared in the December 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.