When looking to improve your health, it is common to set lofty goals and/or jump directly into unrealistic, unsustainable changes and then give up when unable to keep up with these. Whether it’s working on drinking more water during the day, quitting smoking, increasing exercise, reducing stress, or losing weight, it’s important to be thoughtful and mindful of how you approach these goals and to have a plan to achieve these. Below are some tips to help you reach your health goals.
1. Be realistic and set SMART incremental goals
People may be unsuccessful in reaching their health goals if trying to make unrealistic lifestyle changes too quickly. When looking to achieve a long-term goal, consider using SMART incremental goals to break up the steps to get there. SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For example, if losing 10 pounds is your end goal, consider breaking up this bigger goal into smaller, more realistic goals first. Consider making a SMART goal of substituting regular soda with seltzer water for the next month or walking 30 minutes 3 days per week for the next month. These smaller goals are specific as well as measurable. At the end of one month, you can assess how you have been doing. If you feel the SMART goal is realistic and achievable and you can incorporate it easily in your day-to-day, it makes it easier to work on the long term goal of a 10 pound weight loss.
2. Plan for success
Changing behaviors requires planning in advance to set yourself up for success. If quitting smoking is your end goal, it is helpful to prepare for withdrawal symptoms and to plan what you can substitute cigarettes with to help manage your withdrawal symptoms. Planning not to go into the location where you typically would purchase cigarettes may help, as well as considering using nicotine replacement therapy (such as gum or lozenges) and having these readily available. Having another activity to distract yourself from the smoking, such as exercise or support groups for encouragement, can also be something you can plan. Consider what your plan for success would look like for your health goal.
3. Take it one day at a time and be patient
When working on a goal, it can be helpful to focus on staying in the present and making the most of what you can do each day. After you’ve set your SMART goals, try to go easy on yourself and be patient if expectations are not met as quickly as you’d hoped. Consider your purpose for working on your health goal as a motivator to stick to your plan and to find solutions to barriers as they come up while keeping your long-term goal on the horizon.
4. Be kind to yourself and positive
Changing behaviors is not easy, and it’s possible to have slip-ups along the way. Negative self-talk and talking oneself out of a goal when obstacles arise are common reasons why people might stop working on a health goal. Consider relapses and obstacles as learning experiences and ways to adjust your approach to best support your long-term goal.
5. Consider having support and celebrate your wins
Support from yourself and others can be helpful when working on a health change. Consider surrounding yourself with others who may help you reach your goals, such as support groups, online forums, and/or reaching out to family/friends. Celebrate your wins with others as you achieve them and work towards your long-term goal. This will help keep you motivated to keep up the progress.
6. Consider keeping a diary or journal to monitor progress
Keeping a diary or journal to write down your goals, and to keep track of the goals you have achieved or barriers you have overcome, may be a motivator to continue them. Writing down your purpose for working on these goals can also be a good start. The act of writing this down may make it easier to stay consistent with it.
Implementing these strategies may help you be more successful in achieving your goal. Good luck!
Note: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.