Each new year brings time to reflect on the past year and set goals or intentions for the year to come. With all the extra energy and motivation to make a change, it can be really tempting to set drastic goals that lead to immediate habit changes. And frequently, these drastic goals are centered around restriction.
Examples of restriction-based goals are eliminating an entire food group, eating perfectly while cutting out treats or sweets, and exercising every day. The problem with these goals is that they are often unsustainable, especially if they weren’t previously integrated into your life.
When goals are set with an “all or nothing” mindset, people tend to give up and return to old habits. That’s why it’s important to set smaller, more achievable goals and take baby steps to incorporate them into your lifestyle. Small healthy habits are proven more efficient than large, lofty goals.
Our favorite healthy habits always focus on adding to your lifestyle rather than restricting it. Here’s why:
Goal Setting 101: Why You Should Add to Your Lifestyle Rather Than Restrict It
When it comes to healthy habit changes and goal setting, it’s best to focus on what you can add to your life to help build small healthy habits all year long versus what you can eliminate.
Adding things to your life, while still challenging, gives a sense of fulfillment rather than restriction. Start to think about what you can add to your life that will still help you get closer to your ultimate goal.
For example, instead of removing all carbohydrates from your diet, try adding at least one serving of produce to each meal. This way, you will naturally consume slightly fewer carbohydrates by adding more nutrient-packed vegetables or fruits.
A study from 2020 that looked into the resolutions of over 1,000 people found that the ones that set approach-based goals were significantly more successful compared to the ones that set avoidance-based goals.1 Approach-based goals focus on positive improvement and gaining competence, while avoidance-based goals are centered around avoiding looking bad or incompetent.
Concentrating on abundance rather than restriction will help foster a positive mindset while working toward your goals.
Use the S.M.A.R.T. Method to Achieve Small Healthy Habits
There are many reasons people tend to fall short of their goals. Often, it's because their goals are too vague or don’t offer a starting point.
Even with goals based around addition, it will be helpful to break them down into smaller, attainable action items. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals allows you to slowly and mindfully work toward your ultimate goal. Rather than setting yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic, lofty New Year’s goals, try reframing those goals so they’re small and achievable.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that’s widely used for goal setting and habit changes. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. The method is meant to help reframe your goals so that you have a clear outline of how to achieve them.
Specific: Make your goal clear and specific.
Measurable: How will you measure and check in with yourself throughout the year? Establish personal KPIs (key performance indicators) so that you’ll be able to tell when you’re making progress and meeting your goals.
Attainable: Your goal should be within reach but not too easy, causing you to lack motivation. Once you reach this goal, set another to help move you toward a bigger goal.
Realistic: Set goals that are relevant and realistic to your current lifestyle. It’s tempting to set trendy goals or ones that our friends and family have worked toward, but take a moment to assess if your goals fit your life and what you want and need.
Timely: Make sure there is an end-point to your goal to help motivate you to keep moving forward.
Using the S.M.A.R.T method, try reframing your larger goals and breaking them into small healthy habit changes you can work toward over time.
If you’re pursuing leveling up your health and making smaller, sustainable changes to your lifestyle, here are a few of our favorite healthy habits that are easy to implement into your day-to-day schedule.
5 Health Habits to Add to Your Lifestyle this New Year
- Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day: Increasing your water intake is not only a great way to stay hydrated but may also help reduce your intake of sugary drinks, such as soda, sweet tea, or energy drinks.
- Walk outside daily: Getting outside has been shown to support mental health, your circadian rhythm, and energy levels.
- Take daily multivitamins: We know that it can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need each day through food alone, so adding in a multivitamin can often be a great way to bridge any gaps in your diet.
- Add fiber and produce to each meal: Aim to add either a complex carbohydrate, vegetable, or fruit to your meals to increase fiber intake. Fiber can help fill you up, support bowel movements, and promote heart health. And because it helps you feel more fulfilled and full after eating, you’ll be less tempted to eat or snack on highly-processed foods after you finish a meal.
- Prioritize sleep by setting a bedtime: Set a bedtime and stick to it! Sleep is essential for brain function, weight management, and performance, so it’s crucial that you prioritize your sleep schedule.
If you’re ready to make new goals and establish small healthy habits in the new year, focusing on what you can add to your life can be a helpful way to feel fulfilled rather than deprived. Try restructuring your goals so you can realistically tackle them and grow from the process.
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- Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year's resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PloS one, 15(12), e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097