Do you want to be healthier in 2015? Create implementation intentions!

New Year's ResolutionsIf you are like many Americans, the New Year serves as a mental “reset” on the clock. New things are possible, and the better – no – BEST you will be realized in 2015. According to research in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, nearly half of all Americans say they make a New Year’s Resolution. The good news is that the top resolutions are related one’s personal and community’s health: losing weight, getting fit and healthy, quitting smoking and enjoying life to its fullest. It appears that people know they should be paying attention to their health. Unfortunately, the majority of resolution-makers ultimately fail. Even those who successfully lose weight typically put it on again with time.

So how do you improve your health and the health of your family and community in 2015? I suggest that you rethink your goal. If your goal is lose weight, if your goal is to quit smoking, if your goal is to exercise three times per week – then you’ve made the decision about where you want to end up. What you haven’t done is to make a plan of how you are going to get there.

People fail to accomplish their goals for two common reasons: 1) they simply don’t do the things they intended to do (for example, go to the gym), and 2) they fail to avoid things they intended not to do (for example, eat cake).

Implementation intentions are if-then scenarios for specific situations that help you accomplish your goals. So if your goal is “to eat healthier,” some solid implementation intentions, if-then scenarios, to help you, might look like this:

  • If I cook dinner at home, then I will serve two vegetable options.
  • If I eat at a restaurant, then I will order a lettuce salad with my meal.
  • If I am offered a “treat”, then I will say yes only for (insert absolute favorite treat here) once per week.

If your goal is to “get fit,” then some helpful implementation intentions for you might be:

  • If I have time in my schedule, then I will make an appointment in my calendar to exercise during my break.
  • If I don’t make it to the gym one day, then I will get up early and walk the next morning before work.
  • If I don’t do my workout video before dinnertime, then I will walk the dog an extra mile.

Going through the mental process of creating implementation intentions, or if-then plans, increases the likelihood that your goals will be at the forefront of your mind! Multiple research studies have demonstrated that forming these types of goals have been especially effective exercise goals and eating plans any time of the year – not just the new year!

Finally, if you want to improve your health in this new year, below are some scientifically credible tips and resources to help you meet your new implementation intentions:

  • Achieving longevity: http://www.bluezones.com/
  • Knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI) and health risk: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/risk.htm
  • For practical tips on a healthy diet to fit your lifestyle, visit the Academy of Nutrition and dietetics: http://www.eatright.org/

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Rachel Reimer

Rachel Reimer, Ph.D., is program Director, Chair and Associate Professor of DMU’s Department of Public Health

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