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4 rules for better New Year's resolutions

If you’re planning your 2020 resolutions, you may be wondering how to make good habits last throughout the new year.

Most people don’t stick to their resolutions for very long, but there are some strategies you can use to enjoy success. Elizabeth Jaggers, M.D., a Piedmont internal medicine physician, points out that incremental progress is often the right way to approach bigger goals.

“It’s mostly about making those small changes,” she says.

Dr. Jaggers offers four rules for creating healthy goals that you’ll actually want to maintain.

  1. Decide what’s sustainable for you.

“I think a lot of people bite off more than they can chew,” Dr. Jaggers explains. It can be tempting to try to overhaul your life overnight, but that rarely leads to long-term success.

Instead, Dr. Jaggers says, take stock of what’s really manageable for you right now.

“Sometimes the holidays are not the right time to make changes,” she points out. Perhaps it would be easier to hold off on healthy lifestyle changes until, say, Jan. 15. So why not give yourself that extra couple of weeks?

  1. Look for the root cause and not the surface issue.

Dr. Jaggers has seen plenty of patients who want to lose a certain amount of weight. But the smart way to approach weight loss is by working backwards to figure out why you gained those extra pounds in the first place.

Lots of processed junk foods? A few too many late-night snacks? Too little sleep? Figuring out the true cause can help you lose weight and keep it off for the long term, too.

“That’s the bigger issue for most people,” Dr. Jaggers says, “rather than the actual number on the scale.”

The principle applies to other health-based goals, too. If you’re interested in getting better rest, for example, consider why you’re frequently tired in the first place. That gives you a better starting point to tackle the problem.

  1. Accept some setbacks.

“Allow yourself some grace to fail occasionally,” Dr. Jaggers says. If you want to cut back on the sweets you eat, recognize that you aren’t banning candy or doughnuts for the rest of your life.

“And that’s OK,” Dr. Jaggers says. “You just don’t want to eat 10 doughnuts.” 

  1. Reach out for help.

This is one of the most important things you can do to support your goals, Dr. Jaggers says. Get your family members involved, look for support groups, or try a therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy.

“As humans, we’re supposed to need each other,” she says. “We do better in villages than we do alone.”

She also advises talking to a doctor about your health goals, especially if you’re looking to quit something addictive like cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.

“Some of those things are dangerous to stop cold turkey,” she points out.

You may be able to find resources in unexpected places, too. Some employers offer discounted gym memberships or therapy sessions, so don’t be afraid to ask about your options.

“There’s no shame in getting someone to help lead you on your journey,” Dr. Jaggers says.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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