It’s the end of January, and maybe some of those resolutions or intentions you set at the beginning of the year are starting to lose their shine. Serene Da Silva, a social worker in Sunnybrook’s Anita Rachlis Clinic, shares some tips for how to stick to your resolutions all year long.
Serene says she often uses the acronym “SMART” to help guide goal-setting. The letters in the acronym stand for:
S — specific
M — measurable
A — achievable
R — relevant
T — time-bound
It’s important that you have ways to measure whether you’re successful, you’ve considered how your resolutions will tie in to what makes your life meaningful and to set time limits for your goals. And Serene says it’s also key not to try and take on too much.
“Be realistic (set achievable goals),” she says. “January is a hard month for people — it’s darker, it’s winter, it can be overwhelming and can be hard for people to have these big, lofty goals.”
In addition to the SMART goal framework, Serene says you should also make the resolutions or intentions rewarding for yourself.
“A lot of people choose things they’re not sure they like yet,” she says. “Give yourself some time to figure out what workout, what healthy foods or spiritual/meditation practices will work for you. If it’s rewarding and you like it, you’re going to succeed at it.”
It’s a tip Serene picked up from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits — “stacking” small habits onto everyday tasks to make them easier to remember.
She gives the example of taking her supplements every morning right after brushing her teeth, or someone who meditates right after pouring their coffee.
“It’s about incorporating these small habits into existing routines, to things you already do every day,” she says.
Be kind to yourself
You might think self-criticism is a good way to motivate yourself, but Serene says research actually shows self-criticism is associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression, so she says it’s important to speak to yourself kindly and compassionately.
“Change is really hard, and it’s easier if we don’t spend so much energy beating ourselves up about the habits we’re trying to form,” she says.
And while January 1 is a fun time to start a new project or goal, we can take some of the pressure off ourselves if we remember that we can start fresh or adjust our goals and resolutions at any time.
“There’s always a new week or a new month to look forward to, for us to refresh what’s not serving us,” she says.
Reflect on what went well
The beginning of a new year is not only a great time for resolutions and goal setting, but also for reflecting on the previous year and thinking about what went well.
“Think about what you have to be grateful for, and what you’re proud of accomplishing,” Serene says.