By Jan Enorgen
Love ’em or hate ’em, New Year’s resolutions are a long-standing American tradition.
After the decadence of the holiday season, people commit to making changes in their physical, spiritual and mental well-being at the start of a new year.
Quitting smoking, going on a diet, choosing healthier options, heading back to the gym and cutting down on alcohol are among the top New Year’s resolutions.
But, is it a good idea to make these promises to ourselves or are we setting ourselves up for failure?
We asked a couple of experts.
Dr. Ashley Hall, a primary care physician in Boca Raton who specializes in preventive medicine, chronic disease management, obesity medicine and women’s health, sees no reason to wait until Jan. 1 to set goals.
Hall, who practices at Baptist Health Primary Care Boca Raton (Del Mar), advises setting a health or wellness goal once a month.
“Check in with yourself the first of each month to remind yourself of your goals and set manageable, realistic steps to attain them,” she says.
If you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, for example, set incremental goals along the way, she says. If you are trying to get a promotion at work, communicate with your boss in ways that will lead to the desired goal.
Her own goals include spending more time with family and her significant other, Dr. Ionut Albu, also a primary care physician in Baptist Health Medical Group, and better managing her work/life balance.
“My goal is to be more present,” she says.
Dr. Joanna L. Drowos, a professor at FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, says setting New Year’s goals “is a good idea.”
“Obviously, we can all make changes to make ourselves healthier,” she says. “The new year is a natural trigger to make these changes. Be thoughtful and make sure it’s something within your ability to attain.
“Don’t give up if you’re not perfect each day,” she says.
Drowos practices with FAU’s Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, which uses a holistic approach in making each patient a partner in health outcomes.
Based on the teachings of Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative health services include osteopathic manipulation and massage, yoga, meditation, culinary medicine and nutrition. Aside from the physical concerns, all of that is part of an effort to evaluate and treat the patient’s mental, emotional, functional, social and community health.
Drowos made a number of health-related changes in her personal life during the coronavirus pandemic.
The married mother of two adolescents, Drowos changed to a plant-based diet, installed a gym in her home and invested in a Peloton. She resolved to eat green leafy vegetables more often and to bring salads for lunch.
As a front-line health care worker, she purchased an Oura Ring, originally to flag signs of COVID-19. She now uses it to track her sleep and activity habits.
“It monitors my heart rate variability, body temperature and sends me messages if I sit too long,” she says. “It’s another tool to use in goal-setting for my health.
“It’s important to be a role model for my kids and patients and model good health habits,” says Drowos, who rides her Peloton three or four times each week. “Even though my kids hate it when I blast the music, I enjoy it.”
Drowos says a key component to making and keeping successful New Year’s resolutions is the motivation and “readiness to change.”
According to research, people who successfully change their behavior don’t do it all at once, they go through a series of stages. The first step is to recognize where you are in the cycle of change, so you can set appropriate goals and the steps to achieve them.
“In our program, we talk about setting smart objectives,” says Drowos. “Make specific changes. Set a measurable, attainable goal. Strive for something, know what it is you want and recognize when you achieve it.
“This makes it easier to move forward when you stumble,” she says. “Set your goal so you’re still able to move toward it; reward yourself for small goals and realize that it is not all or nothing.”
For example, Drowos says, “if you have a piece of cake, don’t punish yourself. Recognize you’re human. Give yourself space to have that treat and resume your goals the next day.”
Drowos believes in the power of support.
“Don’t go it alone,” she says. “Have other people to support your endeavors. Get your family, spouse, friends and even your physician on board. You can be more successful when you have a team to encourage and back you.”
What does Drowos suggest as ways to stick to your resolutions after January?
“Positive reinforcement such as coaching and support are useful,” she says. “Identify resources to keep you focused. Be aware of the barriers and triggers that will prevent you from being successful and find strategies to navigate them and keep your commitment to yourself.
“Arm yourself with the best resources, be prepared and practice forgiveness,” Drowos says. “If you match your goals to your readiness and stage of change, you will maximize your ability to be successful.”
For more resources, visit www.faumedicine.org and https://baptisthealth.net
Jan Enogren writes about health and healthy living. Send column ideas to email@example.com.