Keeping New Year’s resolutions is easier with planning

 (Photo by Quin Hauck/The Weal)

We’re approaching the treacherous one-month-after-New-Years mark, when resolve to keep resolutions wears thin, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In an article published by The New York Times, Jen A. Miller wrote that New Year’s resolutions should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

“Your resolution should be absolutely clear,” Miller said. A vague goal like wanting to lose weight is less effective than wanting to lose 10 pounds in four months, as an example.

Miller also said that making goals measurable helps you see the progress you’ve been making.

“Logging progress into a journal or making notes on your phone in an app designed to help you track behaviours can reinforce the progress, no matter what your resolution may be.”

Ensuring that your goal is achievable is also important when maintaining a resolution. Miller said this doesn’t mean you can’t have big goals, but to ensure they’re realistic.

She gave the example of saving money. If you wanted to save enough money to retire in five years as a college student, that’s almost assuredly not going to happen. But making a resolution to save $100 a month is achieved much more realistically.

When it comes to being time-bound, it helps put a timeline on your achievements, gives your goal a life and a deadline.

In the same article, Miller includes quotes from an interview she did with Dr. Michael Bennet, an American psychiatrist.

Bennet said the reasoning behind your resolution is just as important as any of the SMART aspects.

“If you do it out of the sense of self-hate, or remorse, or a strong passion in that moment, it doesn’t usually last long,” Bennet said.

“But if you build up a process where you’re thinking harder about what’s good for you, you’re changing the structure of your life, you’re bringing people into your life who will reinforce that resolution, then I think you have a fighting chance.”

The American Psychological Association website,, also has some tips about keeping New Year’s resolutions. Most of them are similar to what the Times reported but there are a couple others that encourage self-kindness to achieve your goal.

One of these tips is to talk about your resolution and experiences with friends and family, and joining a support group.

According to the website, “Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.”

The site also states that even if you make minor missteps or stumbles along the way to achieving your goal, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.

“Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy.”

The last tip the site suggests is asking others for support. Accepting help will strengthen your ability to manage any stress caused by your resolution, and help assuage feelings of being overwhelmed with trying to achieve it.

“Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable.”

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