4 ways to reach (and maintain) New Year's resolutions

Motivated to make healthy changes in the new year? Create a successful wellness plan with the help of these fundamental tips.

By Sara M. Link

The start of a new year always brings excitement and hopeful motivation for change. But once you ignite the desire to succeed, how long does it usually take before you burn out? One month? Two? Making lasting lifestyle changes takes commitment, but it can be done.

You don't have to go to extremes to reach your health goals. The key to long-term success is being able to form and maintain new healthy-lifestyle habits. Not sure where to start? Here are four tips that can help you create a successful wellness plan.

  1. Track daily activities and everything you eat. This may seem like an overwhelming and tedious task, but it can help you identify patterns of unhealthy behavior, such as late-night snacking or eating while driving. Tracking daily exercise and food consumption will help keep you accountable — especially in a vulnerable moment — and will uncover the truth about your habits.

    After all, many people overestimate the amount of calories they burn and underestimate how many calories they consume. Many tracking apps are also available. Take time to review the options and pick one that suits your personality and lifestyle. Or simply keep a small journal with you during the day to document your habits by writing them down.

  2. Move more. If you don't have time for a workout one day, add extra movement into your daily routine. This might be as simple as walking during your lunch break or opting to take the stairs whenever possible. Just refrain from all-or-nothing thinking, which keeps you stuck and feeling negative. Planned workouts are important, but a few extra steps here and there add up over the course of a day and help keep you on track toward your goals.
  3. Be willing to experiment. You might not know what approach will work best for you until you do a little experimenting. If one method doesn't work, try a different one. Eventually you'll find a habit or routine that fits your lifestyle and can help you achieve long-term success.

    For instance, you may decide: "This week I'm going to meditate every morning for 10 minutes." If at the end of the week you realize that morning mediation isn't right for you, try meditating just before bedtime. Changing up your experiments and having an open mind will help you evolve and find the right approach.

  4. Make one change at a time. It's common to want to make grandiose plans and dive in headfirst. But instead of trying to move mountains, start small and picture yourself moving a few rocks at a time. Each success will build your confidence and motivate you to continue. Just remember small daily changes will become habits. Those habits will become a routine, and eventually that routine will become your lifestyle. Ask yourself, what small changes will you make today?

Everyone is faced with setbacks and obstacles at one point or another. Instead of focusing on what didn't go right, think about your recent achievements. Chances are you're doing more than you give yourself credit for. Don't beat yourself up over disappointments. Move on and remember that you can only change what you have control over right now.


  1. Identify bad habits through food and activity tracking. Decide which ones you'd like to work on first and come up with action steps that will help you make improvements.
  2. Devise an exercise plan that is realistic for your lifestyle. Then, come up with a plan B to follow when faced with hectic days or weeks to help keep you on track.
  3. Write down three positive achievements at the end of the day. These highlights can be anything from drinking lots of water to hitting 10,000 steps or resisting a tempting treat. Note the impact it has on your motivation and attitude.
Jan. 14, 2017 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3 ways to get closer to achieving your goals
  2. Make healthy habits stick
  3. 5 do's and don'ts for staying motivated
  4. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  5. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  6. Energy management
  7. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  8. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  9. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  10. Bone health tips
  11. Cancer-prevention strategies
  12. Cellphones and cancer
  13. Colon cancer screening
  14. Plastic surgery
  15. Do adults need shots?
  16. Don't save leftover pain pills
  17. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  18. Find meaning in the small things
  19. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  20. Functional fitness training
  21. Overcome obstacles to your goals
  22. Healthy holiday habits: How to get back on track
  23. Hand drying
  24. Hand-washing tips
  25. Healthy habits that boost happiness
  26. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  27. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  28. Home Health Hazards
  29. Brown fat
  30. How social support spurs you
  31. Break the busy cycle
  32. How well do you wash your hands?
  33. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  34. Investing in yourself
  35. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  36. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  37. Liposuction alternatives
  38. Lost in Space
  39. Making progress towards your goals
  40. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  41. Make over your mindset to make time for your health
  42. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  43. Medical family tree
  44. Coronavirus disease: What is it and how can I protect myself?
  45. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  46. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  47. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  48. Personal health records
  49. Personalize your wellness journey
  50. Stick to healthy-eating goals at social gatherings
  51. Posture: Align yourself for good health
  52. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  53. Reach your goals, track your habits
  54. Secondhand smoke
  55. Creating a wellness vision
  56. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  57. Good posture tips
  58. Back exercises
  59. Proper lifting techniques
  60. Stop multitasking and focus
  61. Thirdhand smoke: What are the dangers?
  62. Want good health? Build a solid base
  63. The benefits of gratitude
  64. Travel Safety
  65. Triclosan
  66. Using if-then statements
  67. Vaccines for adults
  68. What are superbugs?
  69. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  70. Air purifiers and smoke