From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

As the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, you probably raised a glass and vowed that this year, things will change.

Motivated by that New Year optimism, you're determined to break some bad habits and form some good ones. Unfortunately for most of us, those good intentions are soon derailed. We exercise more... for a few weeks. We eat better... until February. We stop smoking or drinking ... until the first stressful day at work.

So how do you make change that lasts? Dr. Joe Flanders, a Montreal psychologist and director of the MindSpace Clinic, offers these tips to raise your odds of success.

Whether it's exercising more, improving your diet or reducing alcohol, here's how to make that resolution stick:  

  • Keep it real. Setting your goal too high is a sure way to fail. If you're inactive now, suddenly committing to exercise six days a week will likely not work. Better to err on the easy side; after all, success generates momentum.
  • Make it yours. Pursue change that is meaningful to you. If you're changing for someone else, it likely won't last. Focus on a goal that that will make you feel good.
  • Accentuate the positive. Think about how this change will enhance your life - not just about the negative pattern you're trying to break. In other words, focus on how good you'll look and feel when you reach a healthy weight - rather than dwelling on how much you hate those extra pounds you're carrying now.
  • Be specific. Sure you want to eat better, but what does that look like? Create a plan that spells it out. You might try to eat salad for lunch twice a week, or reduce your alcohol intake to a glass of wine a week. But...
  • Be flexible. Make sure your plan leaves room for options. Nothing in the fridge for a salad today? Last night's leftover broccoli and rice sounds like a healthy lunch. After all, there are many ways to eat better or get active.
  • Reward yourself. Changing habits isn't easy, so reward yourself when you make progress in the right direction. After a dozen visits to the gym, you might treat yourself to a new piece of workout gear.
  • Connect with others. Most pursuits are better with friends. Connection and interaction are motivating, so if you want to exercise more, grab a buddy. If you want to eat healthier, cook with family for added encouragement.
  • Expect slips. To make a change that's lasting, be patient and forgive yourself if you stumble - make that when you stumble. The best way to undermine your progress is to berate yourself if something goes wrong. The trick is not to get discouraged. Acknowledge your mistakes with compassion and try again.

As you take your first steps in 2012, follow Dr. Flanders' tips and turn those resolutions into your new lifestyle.

Here are resources to help you on your way to a healthier year:

Posted: January 2012

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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