By Leah Ingram
Many Americans equate January with a fresh start, thus New Year’s resolutions. Chances are you’ve drawn up a list, and one of these six popular promises of changed behavior appears on it. Considering that only 57 percent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions each year, so says The Marist Poll, you should read on for advice on how not to fall off the resolution bandwagon this year.
1. Lose weight/eat better
Try approaching this resolution realistically, not restrictively. Instead of telling yourself, “I can’t eat ice cream any more,” say, “If I have five servings of fruits and vegetables in a day, I can treat myself to a small ice cream cone.” “You have to include favorite foods in your diet, just in smaller portions, so you don’t feel deprived,” say Bonnie Taub-Dix, a New York City registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson.
2. Exercise more
Being busy is no excuse for being lazy. “You can sneak in exercise by incorporating a brisk walk into your errands, or walking around the soccer field while your kids are at practice,” says Leslie Spencer, PhD, an associate professor of health and exercise science at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. I worked exercise into my life by always being dressed to walk the dog when taking my kids to the bus stop. Once they were on their way to school, the dog and I embarked on our 1.5-mile walk around the neighborhood.
3. Stop smoking
Quitting cold turkey isn’t always a good idea. “You should give yourself five days to ‘get read’ to quit,” advises Cheryl Heaton, PhD, president of the American Legacy Foundation in Washington, DC. She also recommends using multiple tools—medication, counseling, and support—in your quest to give up cigarettes for good.
4. Get out of debt/handle money better
Experts like Angela Stillwell, a financial planner at AXA Advisors in Atlanta, Georgia, advise setting a weekly or monthly budget, and then adopting a cash-only program. When paying off debt, start by focusing on the credit card with the highest interest rate.
5. Get organized/keep the house in better order
To succeed in conquering clutter, professional organizer Elaine Bloom of Maplewood, New Jersey, suggests setting a timer for 30 minutes each day, and working on one organizing project only. “For some people, tackling a task without a time limit makes it seem so daunting that they don’t even get started,” she says. When I decided to get my home organized, I reminded myself that I didn’t end up in this mess overnight, so I couldn’t expect to fix it overnight either. FYI, January is Get Organized Month.
6. Have more “me” time
According to Susan Newman, PhD, the author of “the Book of No,” learning to say no is the best way to carve out more time for you in the New Year. “If someone asks you to help out with a fundraiser, and you’re afraid to decline for fear of hurting that person’s feelings, your ‘me’ time will go out the window,” she says. And when you say no, you needn’t add a reason why you’re declining.
Stats and Info on Resolutions
* Calls to 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a company that disposes of unwanted goods, increase threefold.
* Traffic to the National Association of Professional Organizers’ web site, www.napo.net, rises 30 percent.
* The Container Store, which sells organizational products, has its biggest month of the year.
* Forty percent of smokers decide to quit, says the American Legacy Foundation.
* Weight loss programs Jenny Craig and NutriSystems see a 20 percent and 30 to 40 percent increase in new clients, respectively.
Leah Ingram writes on lifestyle topics for national magazines, and is the author of 12 books on gifts, etiquette and weddings. Learn more about her at www.giftsandetiquette.com