Let’s talk about those New Year’s resolutions we made.

The yearly flip of the calendar has traditionally been a time when people reexamine their lives, set new goals and embark on a journey toward personal change — all of which is commendable.

So what’s the problem? Well, mostly it all comes down to the fact that it’s easier (and more fun) to make some New Year’s resolutions than it is to keep them.

What Kind of Resolutions Have Americans Made This Year?

The global pandemic that struck early in 2020 thwarted many of the plans we made, so we can all be forgiven for throwing in the towel (and throwing out our calendars) last year. It’s time, however, to approach 2021 with renewed optimism and energy.

With that in mind, the most popular resolutions this year are heavily centered around getting healthier. Roughly 50% of people who made New Year’s resolutions want to improve their fitness levels, while 48% want to lose weight and 39% want to eat better.

Sticking to those resolutions can be rough, however, when you don’t know where to start. The lack of a coherent game plan may be why only about a third of those who make New Year’s resolutions stick with them.

What Can You Do to Keep Your Resolutions on Track?

Lasting changes rarely happen overnight. Minor shifts in our behavior can ultimately snowball and have a transformational effect on our world, so the key to real progress is to “think small,” especially when you’re aiming to improve your health.

Here are our suggestions for some positive, low-key ways you can keep moving toward your goals in 2021:

1. Give Your Kitchen a Makeover

We’re not talking about updating the paint color on your walls (although that’s certainly a worthy goal). Instead, take this time to totally overhaul what’s hiding in your cupboard and fridge.

After the winter holidays, the contents of your kitchen may have a decidedly unhealthy flair to them. Throw out the processed food, sweets and snacks so that you have room for fruit, whole-grain cereals, vegetables and other good-for-you food items.

2. Make Walking Part of Your Routine

Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can have major benefits for your heart, your cardiovascular system, your mood — and your waistline.

Squeezing a workout into your daily routine can be difficult if you aren’t used to doing it, however. You can also quickly get discouraged if you push yourself too hard and end up feeling exhausted.

Instead of launching into a major exercise regime, try these small changes instead:

  • Trick yourself into walking more. Park your car as far as possible from the entrance to your office so that you have no choice but to get a little exercise both coming and going.
  • Take a walk during lunch. Pack a (healthy, whole-grain) sandwich or some cut veggies that you can eat while you’re on the move and stroll around the building, parking lot or neighborhood.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator. If you work in an office building with several floors, try taking the stairs at least part of the way.

All those extra steps will gradually build up, and it won’t be long before you feel (and see) the difference in your body.

3. Drink More Water

This sounds absurdly simple, but it’s actually very effective. While there’s no real evidence that eight glasses of water per day are required for maximum benefit, it is true that proper hydration has a significant positive effect on our bodies.

Poor hydration can lower your energy levels, drop your mood, make it harder to concentrate and generally make you feel lousy. To make sure that you’re giving yourself everything you need to keep your health-related goals, skip the calorie-laden sodas entirely, limit your caffeine intake and drink plenty of plain, filtered water instead.

4. Get Out of the House

Do you tend to snack when you’re bored? Do your resolutions seem to fall apart on the weekends when your routine is interrupted? You aren’t alone — but getting out of the house can help alleviate the winter doldrums and help you stay conscious of your goals throughout the weekend.

Indy is filled with places to go and things to see all year long, so you’ve got plenty of options — many of them quite healthy. Check out the Indianapolis Cultural Trail if you want to learn more about your city and get some exercise at the same time. If the weather permits, you may even want to head out to one of the area’s many state parks and reconnect with nature.

5. Learn to Cook Something New

Indy has a thriving culinary scene, and it’s okay to indulge once in a while. (In fact, giving yourself a “cheat day” where you’re free to enjoy whatever greasy, salty, fatty food your heart desires can keep you from feeling deprived by your diet.)

Cooking your own meals, however, puts you in better control of what you’re eating. It’s also a creative activity that can help you alleviate boredom and inspire you to investigate healthy options. If it’s been a while since you’ve cracked open a cookbook, now is the best time to start.

6. Set Milestones and Reward Yourself

It’s easier to stick to a goal when we can measure our progress. Set small, reasonable goals for yourself (like losing five pounds by the end of January or walking every day for two weeks).

When you reach it, give yourself a treat — just make sure that it doesn’t undo your progress. Buy a game you want, get a manicure, pick up a new book or take a spa day — whatever makes you happiest.

Taking charge of your future is exciting! All it takes is a plan and some effort, and you’ll be well on your way to a truly happy new year!

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