What is it about the new year that suddenly has people vowing to overhaul their lives? While that may seem motivating and exciting, it rarely leads to long-term change. Instead, it is the small steps practiced consistently that make the biggest difference! So, here are six surprisingly small New Year’s resolutions that lead to big changes in the way you think about eating, activity, and self-care!
Small New Year’s Resolutions
Have you ever seen a photo mosaic? From a distance, it looks like an ordinary portrait, but up close, you realize that it’s actually comprised of thousands of small detailed photographs.
Wellness is like that: A mosaic of the thousands of small decisions you make about your eating, physical activity, and well-being day-to-day. No single decision determines the outcome, but altogether, they create your picture of health.
Here are six small resolutions to consider that can add up to big changes.
1. Find the middle ground.
Think of eating and physical activity as a pendulum with two extremes: All and Nothing. What happens if you draw a pendulum in one direction and let it go? Of course, it swings to the opposite extreme. Too often, this is how people approach their eating and exercise choices: All or nothing.
No individual snack, meal, drink, or day on the couch will ruin your picture of health. It is your overall pattern of consumption and activity that determine the end result.
Since perfection is not possible (or necessary), find the balance in between the extremes.
When your New Year’s eating and activity plan take into account your schedule, preferences, goals, health concerns, and other issues specific to you, you’re able to establish a healthy lifestyle that is flexible enough to withstand the realities of your daily life.
2. Use nutrition information as a tool, not a weapon.
Rigid rules set you up for failure because when your favorites are off-limits, you’ll still want them. This can trigger cravings, overeating, and guilt, so you may find yourself in the trap I call the “eat-repent-repeat” cycle.
Instead, set a small New Year’s resolution to enjoy the foods you really love without guilt. This freedom actually decreases cravings and overeating, and increases enjoyment and moderation.
When guilt is no longer a factor, common sense prevails.
Remember all foods can fit in a balanced diet. Just keep in mind the common-sense principles of balance, variety, and moderation when deciding what to eat: Balance eating for enjoyment with eating for nourishment; choose a variety of foods to feel healthy and satisfied; and practice moderation in all things (including moderation!).
If your eating feels out of balance, simply ask yourself, “Is there a healthier choice I could make without feeling deprived?” You may discover that you are just as satisfied with frozen yogurt in place of ice cream, whole grain crackers instead of chips, or a small order instead of a large. That is balance, variety, and moderation.
3. Check your fuel gauge.
You wouldn’t pull into a gas station to fill up without first checking your fuel gauge. But how often do you eat just because it’s there?
To recognize the difference between wanting to eat and needing to eat, pause and ask yourself, “Am I hungry?“
It’s a deceptively simple question, but you’ll probably be surprised to discover how often you feel like eating because you’re bored, tired, stressed, or want a reward. Eating food your body doesn’t need may leave you feeling sluggish and doesn’t meet your emotional needs very well either.
4. End eating on autopilot.
Eating on the run doesn’t work because multitasking is a myth. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time so everything else goes on autopilot – especially eating. That’s why you can get to the end of a meal and feel stuffed, but strangely unsatisfied.
On the other hand, mindful eating is eating with intention and attention.
Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started. Eat with attention by taking a break to eat.
One of the small New Year’s resolutions with big results is to make eating an opportunity to refuel and recharge. Minimize distractions, pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and appreciate the aromas, appearance, and flavors of the meal. Awareness of your body’s fuel needs and conscious enjoyment of the entire experience leads to greater satisfaction with less food.
As you experience the benefits of eating more mindfully, ask yourself what other areas of your life would improve with less multitasking and more intention and attention.
5. Exercise for health, not punishment.
Don’t make the mistake of exercising to earn the right to eat or pay penance for eating, as in, “I was so bad at dinner last night; I’ll spend an extra hour on the treadmill.” This negative approach leads to dread and avoidance.
A small New Year’s resolution that makes a big difference is shifting your intention to exercise for energy, productivity, well-being, function, and longevity.
Find physical activities you really enjoy and work well in your schedule. Even busy people quickly discover exercise is a great return on their investment when they focus on the benefits. Exercise is so valuable in fact, that if you’re too busy to exercise, you’re just too busy.
If you’ve been inactive, no problem! Start with small steps and prepare to be amazed as you’re body adapts!
Picture that pendulum: Small steps practiced consistently are more effective than one large, temporary overhaul.
6. Take responsibility for your well-being.
Self-care is not an indulgence; it is a necessity.
But don’t expect someone else to say, “You know what you really need? Time for yourself!” You have to believe you deserve it and be willing to invest your precious resources to make sure you get it.
And the times when it is hardest to make the time for self-care are probably the times you need it most!
Even the little things—restful sleep, connecting with family and friends, time for favorite hobbies, quiet relaxation—all contribute to your effectiveness, health, and vitality.
When you keep the big picture in mind, with small New Year’s resolutions, you’ll create a masterpiece of well-being and your best year yet!
This article has been updated from a previously published version.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you: