A New Year, A New You
Resolutions can become reality with the proper resources, planning and perseverance
by Michelle Garling


For many people the holidays are a time to overindulge and overspend. But after the parties end, the cookies are gone and the decorations have been put away, most are ready for a fresh start. Hence the New Year is often begun with resolutions to improve oneself, with pledges focusing on better health, appearance, finance and quality of life.


Resolutions concerning health typically involve quitting a habit, such as smoking, or picking up a good habit, such as exercising, weight-loss goals are also common objectives. Financial health is another important concern as many look for ways to increase personal savings either for a specific purchase or retirement. The good news is that studies have shown it takes as little as 21 days for an activity to become a habit and six months for it to become a part of one’s personality. Statistics suggest that by February, 63 percent of people have stuck to their resolutions, meaning their changes are more likely to become permanent.


There are several things people can do to improve their chances of keeping a New Year’s resolution. First, one should set realistic goals; accomplishing repeated small aspects of a resolution increases the chances of success because it seems more manageable than a single large one. Next, define the reasons for pursuing the goal, which helps to reinforce its importance. Outlining the steps needed to accomplish the goal creates a plan to follow, even when it seems difficult. Sharing the goal with others—either by discussing it with family and friends or by joining a group that has similar goals—can provide motivation and support. Experts also suggest tracking progress and rewarding good behavior. Setting small, achievable goals—and celebrating those accomplishments—reinforces this good behavior. Finally, stick to the resolution; progress takes time.


With economic concerns being paramount in many people’s minds, improved personal finance is one of the year’s top resolutions. The first step to saving money is to discover where it is being wasted. Creating a budget allows one to track how money is being spent, and from there it can be easy to find expenses that can be trimmed. People are often amazed to learn how much they have been spending on their morning coffee, late fees or unused services. Once these excess funds have been claimed, they can be painlessly saved by establishing an automatic transfer to a savings or retirement account.


Smokers often realize that they are wasting an unacceptable amount of money—and, in a sense, life—on their addiction to cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nicotine addiction is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States. Fortunately the risk associated with smoking-related health problems is substantially reduced within one to two years of quitting. Quitters are in good company; nearly 69 percent of smokers want to quit and many do, according to the CDC, and today there are more former smokers than current ones.


The majority of these ex-smokers quit without the aid of any treatment programs—by going “cold turkey”—but if additional help is needed it can be found in the forms of cessation medications, therapy and online support.


Similar resources are available to those interested in weight loss. Dietary changes can be made individually or with the assistance of an organized program, while medical treatment can be helpful when one’s health is at risk. Being overweight increases the risk of many diseases including heart attack, stroke and cancer, but for others it is also a matter of appearance. Many find they enjoy increased energy levels, participation in social activities and wearing new fashions after losing weight.


Generally, it takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound of body weight. This can be achieved by limiting caloric intake through diet, increasing output with exercise or both. Switching to whole-grain starches, increasing consumption of vegetables, choosing low-fat dairy, meat and cooking methods, such as steaming, baking and broiling are all easy changes to make to one’s diet. Committing to an exercise routine may require a bigger adjustment in lifestyle, but offers additional benefits. Cardiovascular activities improve heart health, while strength training adds definition and increases muscle mass, which burns calories at a faster rate than other types of tissue.


Tracking calorie consumption and setting small goals for losing weight or improving exercise performance can make a large weight-loss goal seem more manageable. Rewarding such an accomplishment with a favorite food prevents the feeling of deprivation, but a new outfit can also provide incentive for continued improvements. Most of all, experts advise, don’t be discouraged by missteps; gaining a healthy lifestyle is more important than losing a certain number of pounds, and that is something achieved consistently over years, not days.


Looking good and feeling confident goes beyond numbers on a scale. A bright smile, healthy skin and youthful appearance can all improve one’s outlook. Everyone has aspects of their physical appearance that they would like to improve. For many, unwanted wrinkles, veins and scars can be easily treated with a visit to an aesthetic physician’s office, while skin tone, elasticity and pigmentation can also be improved through simple treatments, and cosmetic dentistry can address a less than perfect smile. If one’s concerns require more dramatic results, a qualified plastic surgeon can provide alternatives. Whatever the concern, local experts, dentists and physicians are available to discuss the options available to help make each patient more confident in his or her appearance.


In addition to looking good, changes made this time of year can also improve how one feels. Unhealthy stress can have negative effects on the heart, lungs and others parts of the body, which over time can lead to many types of illness. One of the simplest ways to manage stress is to practice a technique such as meditation or yoga, which encourage relaxation. Practical actions can also help reduce the stress in one’s life. These include improving organization, acknowledging personal limits and delegating tasks to others. Many area businesses can provide assistance with housekeeping, care-giving and home services, freeing up more time to work effectively, maintain relationships and enjoy hobbies.


Let this be the year you accomplish the goals established by your New Year’s resolutions by following these simple strategies to look and feel your very best.


Michelle Garling is a freelance writer based in Doylestown.