According to the History Channel, the tradition of New Year’s resolutions began some 4,000 years ago in Babylon. Back then, the new year was marked with the festival of Akitu and traditional promises to pay debts and return borrowed items. Today’s resolutions are more likely to involve weight loss and fitness than returning a borrowed plough, but the idea remains the same.

Each new year is a chance to take stock of where we’re at and where we’d like to be. Maybe that’s a few pounds lighter or being able to hike a switchback without getting winded. It could be to increase your focus, dedicate more time to hobbies, or save money for retirement. Good Housekeeping has a long list of potential resolutions, but odds are you already know what should be given top priority.

Whatever your resolution, the common goal is to make changes that stick. UC Davis has a list of tips on keeping resolutions. Here are a few suggestions:

Choose just one.

The first step in changing habits is to start with just one aspect of your daily routine. We only have so much bandwidth for change and can only police one habit at a time. A Forbes Health  survey noted the most popular resolution is for greater fitness. Second and third places were taken by improving finances and mental health, with losing weight and eating better close behind.  When choosing a resolution, look for one that provides multiple benefits. For example, losing weight will also help with fitness and self-esteem.

Add rather than subtract.

Resolutions are often defined by what we want to stop doing, whether we want to drink less, stop smoking, cut down on fried foods, or nix our daily Frappucino. This focus on eliminating unhealthy habits, and the constantly monitoring it requires, can be exhausting. A better way to think of resolutions is to focus on the good habit that can replace the bad habit. I will drink more water at meals instead of wine. I will start a nicotine replacement program. I will save the money I would have gambled to spend on a vacation. Focusing on the new behavior places the resolution in a positive, proactive frame of reference.

Plan and be specific.

Vague resolutions are easier to break. Take a moment to write down your resolution. If your goal is to be more grateful, make a plan to write down what you’re grateful for every night before bed. Visualize the habit you’re trying to alter and imagine an alternative. Consider the where, when, how, and why of your goal. For example, notice how you stop at a specific coffee drive-through each morning, wait in line with the other commuters, and buy a mocha from the same barista. Now visualize yourself ordering a tea instead or driving straight to work and making your own beverage in the break room.

Start small.

Whatever your resolution, start small and be sensible. By keeping your initial resolution within reach, you will increase your chances of success over the long term. If you’re goals are ambitious, like running a marathon, break them down into steps. Your first step may be to go for a run every day. Your second goal may be to train for a 5K race. Successfully completing each smaller goal will give you the confidence to tackle bigger goals.

If you sense that some habits have become unhealthy, consult your Kinwell clinician. Your health plan may offer programs to support you as you quit smoking or drinking. Kinwell can provide treatment and resources to transition away from harmful substances. Ask your Kinwell clinician about the services of behavioral health specialists and health coaches who can help you identify goals and meet benchmarks. Set up an appointment through your MyChart account, the website, or by calling 833-411-5469.

For more on breaking harmful habits and establishing new ones, read this related post Developing Healthy Habits. Happy New Year and good luck in establishing your new habits in 2024.