With the start of a new year, many people opt to make New Year’s resolutions in an effort to accomplish personal goals.
A study recently conducted by WalletHub, a personal finance company, reveals nearly 59% percent of Americans are most likely to make a resolution to better their health, the highest category in the poll.
Britta Ostermeyer, chair of OU Health Psychiatry, said when setting a resolution goal, it’s important to factor in busy schedules and to refrain from setting too high of expectations.
“If we do, that’s going to increase the likelihood of failure,” Ostermeyer said. “If we start rather with something very doable, then of course we have a higher year of accomplishments.”
Ostermeyer advises scaling down the number of goals to less than five to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
“Goal attainment is usually not easy because it often requires a change in behavior, which is tough” Ostermeyer said. “If we could simply lose weight, stop cigarette smoking, and exercise more just like that, then we would be doing it in the first place.”
A goal can be set in a moment, but Ostermeyer said it takes constant motivation and effort to accomplish them.
“We need on a daily basis to really think about, ‘why did I pick this goal because of X, Y or Z as a potential positive for myself and for others,’” Ostermeyer said. “Then try to engage by motivating ourselves to facilitate some change.”
Ostermeyer said this thought process is similar to a Motivational Interviewing, a counseling style used to elicit positive behavioral change.
The technique was originally used to help with smoking and alcohol cessation, but Ostermeyer said it has evolved into a useful tool for clinicians to walk patients through any kind of lifestyle change.
When implementing this technique, Ostermeyer said she will ask a patient, on a scale of one to 10, how motivated they are to make a change. By actualizing the process behind the change and talking with who the change benefits, she said autonomy is heightened as well as the likelihood of success.
Ostermeyer said mental health and well-being are one in the same. She said taking a combined approach is the best way to better one’s health in the new year.
She said the first factor to take into consideration is adequate tending to medical needs through professional examinations, followed by healthy eating habits.
The third element to a complete approach to wellness is engaging in any kind of physical activity, even if it’s just walking, Ostermeyer said.
“Number four is our sleep,” Ostermeyer said. “It’s very important to sleep on average seven to eight hours at night.”
For step five, Ostermeyer said one should ask themself if they are setting themselves up for stress.
“If we are carrying a burden, whether interpersonal or work related difficulties, that could be putting us down, stressing us and causing us anxiety,” Ostermeyer said. “Improvement in any kind of psychosocial stressors is important.”
As a first-line intervention of stress, depression and anxiety, Ostermeyer recommends yoga or meditation as viable practices for bringing peace, tranquility and stress management.
For lingering symptoms that interfere with daily activities, Ostermeyer said it might be wise to talk to a primary care physician and discuss the possibility of medication or a referral to a psychotherapist for further assessments.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021, many feel their choice of resolutions and their ability to achieve them may be impacted more significantly this year.
According to the study, 60% of Americans feel their New Year’s resolutions will be impacted by COVID-19. Due to the added variables of a pandemic, health and finance experts advise setting realistic goals for the new year to ensure a better success rate.
A phrase that has been used commonly this year is the “quarantine 15,” as many claim sedentary living and unhealthier eating during the pandemic has resulted in weight gain. Ben Hutchens, general manager and trainer at Downtown Fitness, said those who wish to get healthier or shed some extra pounds should look to develop a routine.
“It doesn’t really matter what it is, as far as when you come in and exercise, or if you just take walks outside, but we all need to get back on schedule. That’s going to be the first obstacle to overcome,” Hutchens said.
To lose quarantine and holiday weight, Hutchens advises prioritizing cooking at home when possible.
“Don’t just Postmates or Doordash,” Hutchens said. “Spend some time watching some videos on YouTube to learn how to cook your favorite dishes and just start a routine and move.”
According to the survey, 38% of participants said they intend to set a financial goal for the new year.
Todd Christensen, accredited financial counselor for Money Fit nonprofit credit counseling, said 2020 has highlighted the importance of priorities.
“Prioritizing savings, getting out of debt as quickly as possible and preparing for the long term future are the top three priorities we should be taking from what happened in 2020,” Christensen said.
The average household has $7,938 in credit card debt and $8,863 in savings, according to the survey. Christensen said there are two commonly deployed strategies used to tackle debt heading into the new year.
“If money is your motivator, take the avalanche approach and pay the highest interest card off first,” Christensen said. “This will save the most money over time by avoiding interest.”
If building credit is a high priority, Christensen advises taking a landslide approach by paying off the newest balance because credit score services place more weight on the more recent card accounts.
Christensen said he sees success in savings-related goals when people start small and work their way up incrementally.
He said those looking to increase their savings should start with saving 1% of their paycheck, and then look to increase that amount by 1% each month until reaching 10%.
“You start realizing there’s a lot of stuff you were spending money on that is really not necessary and you can put that money into savings,” Christensen said.
Whether it’s another crisis or a minor setback, he said there will be emergencies again.
“Whether it’s on a large scale or whether it’s on an individual household scale, anybody who thinks that there’s not going to be an emergency in their future is courting financial disaster,” he said. “Just be prepared and commit to save some.”