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