For many of us, the new year comes with a list of resolutions. According to the market research firm YouGov, the top resolutions for 2022 are living healthier, personal improvement for happiness and losing weight.
Four years ago, the top three resolutions were to save money, eat healthier and get more exercise. It seems as though our health always makes the top of the list. Though some of us may stick with these aspirations, many of us fall short. Why is that?
How can we develop good habits and maintain them?
Those are some good questions I’ve asked myself over the years when I know I can do better. The journey to changing behavior is different for each individual. Even if you feel you have everything well organized, you can still have relapses, making it easier to give up. The important thing is to know it’s perfectly normal to fall off track, even if it’s multiple times, but it’s also important to understand why, adjust our plan and try again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Changing behavior is not easy and the time can vary because we all live different lives in different environments and have our own unique circumstances. In general, there are some stages we all go through in changing behavior. This is better explained by what is called the Transtheoretical or Stages of Change Model developed by James O. Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in the late 1970s.
The first stage is the pre-contemplation stage (where we have no intention or interest in changing). When we decide our New Year’s resolutions, we have passed this stage. We are usually at the contemplation stage. We may say to ourselves, “OK, that’s it, my pants feel a little tight. I’m going to be more mindful of what I eat and start exercising again, but I can’t be spending a bunch of money and I’m so busy … ”
We may stay at the step of contemplating change, but after a while we have to move on to the preparation stage. This is when we begin planning and preparing to make the change we want in our lives. We look at our calendar and resources to start planning ahead. We figure out what activities are best for us and our schedule while working through any barriers to make our plan a reality.
This might look like finding what free or affordable activities are available in our community and signing up for a class. We may decide the best day we can shop and plan our healthy meals for the week and mark it on our calendar.
Once we have our plan figured out, the next stage is action. This can be the hardest one for some of us because this is when we actually have to do it. We follow through with our plan, intentionally changing our behavior.
During this stage, we have been executing our plan for at least six weeks. We have been exercising while being mindful of what we eat this whole time. Things seem to be working out. Just when things seem to be going great, what happens?
They can continue to be going great or we may relapse on our New Year’s resolution. If this happens, figure out what triggered you to return to the former behavior. Address it in your plans and get back to your goals. Sometimes unexpected things happen. Life happens. It’s OK. Don’t give up.
Once we have maintained our healthier behavior for more than six months, we have hit the maintenance stage. Everything we’ve planned and prepared for becomes automatic. It’s a part of our daily life and before you know it, it’s a habit. At this stage we always intend to maintain the new behavior and continuously work to prevent relapse to earlier stages.
Making a long-term change is rarely a simple process and it involves commitment of time, effort and emotion, but we can do it. Whatever your traditions or resolutions are, enjoy the new year!
Here are some resources in case your resolutions are some that have been mentioned.
• Your local university.
• UAF Community & Technical College offers more than 40 one-credit recreational (RECR), semester-long classes and you don’t have to be in a degree program to register. To check out RECR courses, go to www.ctc.uaf.edu/academics/course-schedule. Jan. 21 is the deadline and you can register via UAOnline or in person at 604 Barnette St. or at the Registrar’s Office on the main campus.
• Your local Cooperative Extension office. It offers free StrongWomen classes in the community.
• Your local gyms and fitness instructors. Most offer the first facility visit or class for free.
Here are some online resources:
Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at [email protected] or 907-474-2437.