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Revive Your Fizzled Resolutions

Rehab new-year goals into spring-time results

Posted on 03/15/17 by Stacy Julien

Rehab Resolution

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Feeling discouraged? These seven tips can help you get back on track.

By now, you've made a gazillion New Year's resolutions that fizzled faster than the bubbles in your Jan. 1 champagne. Yet you're still stuck at square one.

Join the crowd.

When market research firm Statistic Brain surveyed 1,562 resolution makers in 2016, 42 percent admitted they never succeed at achieving their resolutions, and 48 percent reported only "infrequent success." Just 16 percent of older people said they achieve their resolutions each year, compared with 38 percent of those in their 20s.

Not surprising, experts say.

"Between work, home responsibilities, attention to kids and aging parents, if you are in the midst of your life, you are being asked to do a lot," says Galina Denzel, coauthor of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well. "How are you supposed to find time to change your habits?"

So, here's your task today: Pull out those health and fitness goals you abandoned shortly after New Year's Day and revive and rehab them with these seven easy tips.

Think smaller. Dial back the number of things you want to change. Instead, focus on one or two goals, says Anne Grady, author of Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience, and Triumph. Grady likes to use a balance wheel or pie chart with a section representing each part of your life. Rate yourself from 1 to 10, with 10 being "perfect" and 1 being "poor." Go after the area that needs the most improvement.

Use your imagination. Adopting new habits won't happen overnight, but imagining them helps get your mind ready, Denzel says. "Every morning, meditate on your goal. Practice visualizing the actions you do and what your life will be like when you achieve your goal." Visualization is a trick numerous athletes use to prepare themselves or to rev up their motivation. It also helps for improving health habits. In a small study conducted by McGill University in Montreal, subjects were asked to eat more fruit for a week. Some of the group was told to write down their plan and then visualize themselves buying and eating the fruit at a specific time. Those who used the visualization technique ate twice as much fruit as those who didn't.

Learn the science of setting goals. "Hazy goals get hazy results," Grady says. "The more specific the goal, the better. For example, 'Get healthy' is not specific enough. Instead, think: I will walk for at least 30 minutes, four days a week. Or I will eat fruits and veggies three times a day. Grady says to make sure your goal is something that can be measured, and that it's attainable but still takes you out of your comfort zone.

Embrace the suck. Yes, starting a new habit will be uncomfortable at first. Your muscles may be sore after that first workout in your new exercise regimen. Turning down the cupcakes at an office party will require willpower and a positive attitude as you watch others munch away. But take pride in knowing that you're making an effort to reach your goals. "We don't like leaving our comfort zones or forming new habits, even if the new habits are for our own good. However, getting back in the game will require change and most likely some discomfort," Grady says. Know that and know that much of the discomfort may eventually go away.

Be an expert at making mistakes.¬†When you foul up, work on doing the opposite of what the old you would do ‚ÄĒ which is quit. When you feel like you have dropped the ball, don't judge yourself for the glitch. Start again! Put a stop to the negative thinking, Denzel says, in order to help yourself move on from what is only a temporary setback.

Disconnect and be mindful. We're connected to technology all of the time and addicted to constant updates. In fact, a 2015 survey found that 71 percent of smartphone users even sleep by their phones. Grady advises us to take a five-minute break from technology each day, and to walk outside and breathe in fresh air. Create a regular habit of being still in order to take your mind off the never-ending to-do list. By doing that, "you're strengthening your ability to maintain focus."

Lean in to support. This is an area mature audiences may find challenging: asking for help. Realize that the support system you need will be different from the one of a 25-year-old. "Most of us try to change on our own, as if it's a badge of honor to figure something out on our own," Denzel says. But there is strength in numbers. Make connections with people who are most like you in age and goals. Get a partner to keep you accountable. Ask people who have reached their health goals for their tips and advice. "Lean into the experience, support and confidence of others who have done it," she says.

Stacy Julien is channel editor for AARP's Health channel.

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