Make a joy list and stack your habits. Readers weigh in with tips for sticking with your resolutions.
A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions, but how many of us actually accomplish our health goals by the end of the year?
We asked Well+Being readers to share their success stories. What goals did they accomplish last year? How did they do it? And what are their best tips?
Here’s what readers had to say.
1. Make a joy list
Start by making a list of the various activities that fill your day. Now, identify the things you’re doing for other people versus the things that bring you joy. What’s the balance of activities? How much time are you giving yourself for joy?
“My goal was to do more of what gives me joy and less of things I thought I was obligated to do for other people,” said Richard Wexelblat, 84, of Coatesville, Pa. “I know it sounds selfish, but it was important.”
He made a list of “little joys” like remembering to put on his name badge and “big joys like getting back to baking and making my first loaf of bread in a long time.”
2. Just set a goal
It sounds simple, but often the most important part of a resolution is just picking a goal you want to achieve. Jess Hutchins, 44, of Southborough, Mass., realized this after being sidelined by ACL (knee) surgery. She set a goal of improving her 5K race time, and she found a training program focused on improving speed.
“Knowing what’s important to you and working to achieve it feels great,” said Hutchins. “It doesn’t have to be big, but you should have a process of getting from where you are to where you want to be.”
3. Focus on little wins
There are bound to be times when we get off track or fail at achieving our goals the first time. But resolving to remain positive, stay the course and focus on small changes over time can help.
Portia Young, in Milwaukee, said she made a resolution in January 2022 to lose weight before a Florida vacation in November. She joined Weight Watchers and lost 45 pounds over the next several months.
“The biggest thing is that I made peace with the fact that controlling my weight, is something I’m always going to have to manage,” she said. “Losing weight is the result of little wins, small changes, like eating more vegetables but still eating a burger occasionally. Try to stay positive and know that slow and steady wins the day.”
4. Stack your habits
One way to form a new habit is to “stack” it on top of an already existing one. If there is an activity that is already part of your daily activities or routine, consider pairing it with the new habit or activity you’d like to start.
Storm Cunningham, 71, of Arlington, Va., wanted to take more frequent exercise breaks from sitting at his computer. Although his wife had bought a small trampoline for his office, he wasn’t using it. He finally made a pledge to bounce on the trampoline whenever he took a bathroom break. It worked.
5. Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support. For Laura Rocco, 74, friends were crucial to helping her achieve her a goal to restore her Florida home, which had been flooded during Hurricane Ian.
“I needed to deal with it without being consumed and overwhelmed,” she wrote. Her friends in the neighborhood provided her a place to stay, while others helped with demolition.
“Each day after tearing out carpet, removing drywall, and dragging ruined furniture to the curb, I returned to the neighbors’ house, took a hot shower, put on a dress and let my mind shift away from the endless to-do list and breathe (and enjoy Jeopardy!).”
6. Bring a friend
Danielle Nicholson, 49, set a goal of hiking 100 miles in October, both to boost her fitness and stabilize her mental health ahead of a stressful holiday season. She enlisted a workout partner to complete the goal with her — someone who was just as motivated and would make the experience fun. They chose hiking trails that had been on their bucket lists and also did shorter neighborhood hikes.
Finding the time to schedule hikes turned out to be the most difficult part. “We just did what it took to make it happen,” she wrote. “We celebrated our 100th mile by ending the snowy hike with a glass of wine and tomato soup at a local restaurant. I still dream of that soup.”
7. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Susan Rendina, 66, of Belmont, Calif., decided to learn to play the piano this year. She wanted to be able to make music, have another way to connect with her son and challenge herself. She took an adult piano class at a local community college, then did her own lessons with the help of her son, playing music over a video call and listening to his feedback.
“Reading the music and trying to coordinate both hands while keeping the timing correct is very challenging for me,” she said.
Her advice to other readers? “Why not try? You are never too old to do something new.”