12 Months to a Healthier You: Month 12, Making Sustainable Change

Author: Dr. Anne Zauderer

For those of you who have been following along with this article series and, even better, for those of you who have implemented some of the changes, congratulations! Making changes in our lives is hard. Making habits out of those changes is even harder.

Most of us desire self-improvement. In fact, 40% of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution in January; however, only 8% will achieve their New Year’s goal. Why is it so difficult? The key to making our changes sustainable is to develop habits. Until a “change” is a habit, we have to expend a lot of will power to follow through. Most of us only have a limited amount of will power to expend. If our goals are too lofty or complicated, we run out of will power and give up.

For example, if you want to set a goal to start walking every day, the best way to do this is to set a simple goal. Start by walking 15 minutes every day. Decide that no matter what, you will get your 15 minutes of walking in daily. Initially you are going to have to “will” yourself to put your tennis shoes on and get outside. You will probably be tired from your walks. However, after a few weeks that daily walk becomes part of your daily routine. Soon, your habit of walking is so strong that your day will feel “off” if you don’t get a walk in! Eventually your 15 minutes of walking will turn into 30 or 45 minutes of walking. You will identify yourself as a regular “walker” or someone who exercises daily. Your friends and family will be impressed and you will start to motivate others to make changes.

A few other strategies to help turn short-term changes into long-term habits are:

  1. Start small and choose one thing at a time.
  2. Make your goals specific and measureable. Be able to track your success so that you can celebrate small milestones.
  3. Make your goals public so that you can have accountability and encouragement from your community.
  4. Don’t just add new changes, replace old ones. For example, replace 15 minutes of time on social media with 15 minutes of walking.

If you aren’t sure about goals for the New Year, below is a review of each of the topics we’ve covered this year. Start with one, small change! You can find old editions of Health Hunters at riordanclinic.org/health-hunters-news/ to read the full articles.

  1. Drink only water
  2. Exercise
  3. Avoid food additives
  4. Avoid the Standard American Diet (SAD)
  5. Go organic
  6. Eat the colors of the rainbow
  7. Fuel yourself with healthy fats
  8. Cultivate healthy bacteria
  9. Cut the sugar
  10. The power of positive thoughts
  11. Quality sleep

If you have successfully implemented any of the changes above, I want to hear your story! Email me at editor@riordanclinic.org and tell me about your journey.