Many people see the start of the new year as a chance to make positive personal changes or do something new. However, if you’re like most people, by the second week of January, you may be having trouble sticking to your resolutions. Here are some tips for healthy habit building that will help you turn your resolutions into personal change that lasts.

Successful Resolutions Depend on Building Healthy Habits

Most new year’s resolutions are intended to improve your long-term mental and physical health, wellbeing, and quality of life. These kinds of changes take time and diligence to build healthy habits and make them part of your everyday life. Where you are today is a reflection on your past habits and current circumstances. Making change means breaking out of those old routines. Without a plan for healthy habit building, resolutions quickly give way to burnout, discouragement, and simple forgetfulness. That’s why you need a clear structure for how you will incorporate your new year’s changes after the novelty of the holiday fades away.

Get Help Building Healthy Habits

Talk to a psychotherapist about strategies to make personal change today.


Set Clear, Specific, Achievable Goals

One reason you may fail in keeping your resolutions is because you don’t know what it will look like to succeed. “I resolve to loose weight” is a hard resolution to keep because everyday fluctuations in wellness, water retention, and even a woman’s menstrual cycle can defeat it. Instead, write “SMART” goals that are:

  • Specific: Specifically define your goal in terms of steps you will know you are taking, rather than end results. (“I want to reduce my pants size” vs “I want to lose weight.”)
  • Measurable: Use numbers to quantify your goals (“I want to lose 10 pounds”)
  • Achievable: Don’t make demands of yourself you can’t keep. Set a goal that works your way up (or down) to the number you want. (Aim to lose 10 pounds, not 50 pounds)
  • Relevant: Set goals that align with your personal goals and values, rather than society’s expectations. Tell yourself why you want to do this hard thing. (“I want to lose 10 pounds so I am better able to walk the dog”)
  • Time-Bound: Set a destination for your goal, not just the path. This helps you stay focused and sets a deadline to be kept. (“I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months.)

Build Healthy Habits Through Consistent Routines

Remember that keeping a resolution means rewriting your default routine. That requires repetition and a commitment to doing the new thing over and over until it sticks. Research says, if you can build a healthy habit and stick to it for 6 to 8 weeks, the habit is much more likely to become part of your ongoing routine. That’s why time-bound goals are so important. Rather than feeling like you have committed to doing something “forever” it gives you a specific period to focus on. If you develop a predictable, consistent routine during that period, by the end of that time it will feel natural to continue it afterward.

Track Your Progress

How will you know you have successfully kept your resolution if you don’t track it? Whether you start a journal, use a habit tracker, or tick off “To Do” items on your phone, find some way to track your progress. Being able to visualize incremental successes will build momentum toward your goal, making it easier to keep going when burnout or temptations arise. Having a record will also make it easier for you to review what worked and what didn’t when it comes time to set a new goal for the next period.

Have a Plan for Dealing with Obstacles

Acknowledge that things will come up. You will get sick, the weather will keep you indoors, or your best friend will surprise you with cupcakes. All these things can be obstacles toward keeping your resolutions and building healthy habits. Recognize that setbacks are not failures, and be patient and flexible with yourself as you are learning your new routine. But you should also be prepared with strategies to get you back on track. This may mean giving yourself a grace period or “cheat day” with the expectation that you’ll be back to the new routine once the obstacle has passed.

Celebrate Your Success

Resolutions without rewards can just feel like burdens. You need to boost your morale by celebrating the achievements that occur along the way. Some people do this through little rewards or by posting their progress on social media. This will help you feel good about the work you are doing, and keep you moving in the right direction.

Work with a Psychotherapist to Build Healthy Habits

Building healthy habits isn’t as easy as making a resolution on December 31, but sustainable change is possible. If you are struggling to achieve personal change, a psychotherapist can help you create SMART goals, serve as an accountability partner, and help you respond to obstacles that arise along the way. With the help of someone trained in self-improvement and empowerment, you’ll be better able to build healthy habits and keep the promises you made to yourself on New Year’s Eve.

David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 35 years of experience in long and short-term therapy solutions. He provides adults with solutions to build healthy habits and make personal change. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.