Year in and year out, we all make resolutions to better ourselves. Gym memberships surge, restaurants serve more salads and people reduce their smoking, drinking and spending. Making a resolution is one thing, but sticking to that resolution can be an uphill battle -- these are lifelong habits you're trying to break. Kafi A. Martin, a health and lifestyle expert and CEO of Island Sweat, offers her tips for staying focused. In short, think long term.
Cooking more meals at home is a top New Year's resolution, but it's daunting if you're not comfortable in the kitchen. "To start, pick one meal that would be easy for you to do," Martin said. Think eggs for breakfast or chicken for dinner. "The key here is to not overwhelm yourself by trying to cook each meal right away. Pick one easy meal first, master it and then add another."
Eating the majority of your meals at home is the quickest way to eat healthier. Still, you will likely eat out. At restaurants, don't be afraid to get picky. Ask for dressings and toppings on the side, request your food cooked in olive oil instead of other fats, skip the appetizers and order water to drink. At friends' houses, control your portions and pass on high-calorie beverages.
Get a Better Education
If you're thinking of going back to school, Martin suggests you "write down your reason for going back to school at the top of every notepad and notebook you use." The constant reminder, she says, will keep you focused and motivate you through difficult classes and exams even when balancing school with life and work seems impossible.
This resolution may be more difficult to keep than others because your body's addiction to nicotine can be difficult to overcome. Some can quit cold turkey, but others require gradual steps to break their addiction, and that's OK. Invest in products that help wean you off your nicotine addiction. In addition, Martin says to "assess what triggers your stress and control that first before you reach for your puffer" since smoking is often a mindless, stress-relieving habit.
Stick to a Budget
"A budget is how you control your money and ensure that money does not control you," said Martin. Think of a budget as financial freedom as opposed to a restriction. To stick to this resolution, Martin suggests setting up a small monthly reward for yourself as a treat for a month's worth of success. Take a picture of this reward (a meal, a manicure, a new outfit) and keep it in your line of sight to help stay on track.
Whether you're tens, hundreds or thousands of dollars in debt, reducing that debt takes dedication and diligence. To start, do not accrue any more debt and instead only spend within your means. To reduce the debt you already have, list all your debts from smallest to largest. "Start by paying off the smallest debt," suggested Martin, who explains that the reward of paying it off can motivate you to work on your larger debts, too. If necessary, work with a financial specialist to help you create a plan of attack.
Drowning in clutter? Try nixing as much paper as possible and storing it digitally instead, Martin suggests. "With an electronic copy, you can get rid of the paper copy and immediately begin to keep your space clear and organized," she said. For standard household organization, go through all your possessions and donate whatever you aren't using. Buy storage containers of all sizes, give everything a place and then label the containers. "Designating one space for each item keeps it from being jumbled and hard to find," said Martin.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
To successfully reduce your alcohol intake, first consider where you do the majority of your drinking. "If you're a social drinker, do less events where others are drinking and do more physical activities like skating or hiking," suggested Martin. "This way you get your social interaction, but it's not built around behavior where drinking is the norm." Martin says to pay attention to your drinking mood if you're a solitary drinker. Once you understand your triggers, work to avoid them and find other ways to cope or relieve that mood.
Exercise and getting more fit is all about a lifestyle change -- not a temporary regimen. "To get fit, you must engage in an activity that you love, at a time where you are fully focused on you and you only," advised Martin. "Separate an hour in every day that belongs only to you. In that hour, do the sporting activity you enjoy most." If you hate running, don't do it. Instead try dancing, skating or even walking. If you enjoy sports, join a community team. If you love the outdoors, take up hiking or biking.
Spend More Time With Family
Spending quality time with your family can be tricky since it requires balancing various peoples' schedules. The key is to plan in advance and to find something fun that you all enjoy. "Take turns picking an activity that everyone can do and set aside a specific time every week," suggested Martin. "Even if it's game night at home, put the event on your calendar so you don't schedule something over it by accident."