New year 2015This week, of course, many people are making their New Year’s resolutions.  I find that I always have a long list of things I’d like to do in the new year: for example, this coming year I want to read more books, keep my house clean, exercise more, cook new recipes, keep in better touch with old friends…the list goes on and on.  I find that this time of year is a great opportunity for families to set goals toward becoming healthier and happier in the new year.  So, how can you and your teen make resolutions that will be sustainable and achievable?

One of the things I find to be most helpful when talking about change with my patients is planning how you’re going to do it.  This website is a great way to plan out your goal, takes just a few minutes, and gives you a printout you can use to remind yourself of your strategy!  Here are the basics:

1) Figure out what motivates you.  For example, is there a concert or school trip you’d like to attend? Someone you’d like to help?  Do you want to feel more energetic?  It’s hard to work toward something just because others tell you that you “should”…the most effective goals are those that are truly important to YOU.

2) Make your goal as specific as you can.  For example, instead of saying “I want to exercise more,” say, “I will exercise 5 days a week.”  Even better, think about specifically how you can accomplish the goal: “I will exercise by going on a bike ride for 60 minutes, 2 days a week, and I will also go for a walk for 45 minutes, 3 days a week.”

3) Make your goal realistic!  For example, if your resolution is to get 8 hours of sleep per night, but you currently only get 5 hours, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.  Use smaller steps at first–“I will go to bed half an hour earlier”–until that step becomes habit.  This can take months!  Only then should you take another step.

4) Build fun into the ways you will reach your goal.  The moment a teen feels they are doing “work” rather than having fun is the moment they will lose steam to work toward a goal.  If your goal is to keep your room tidy, listen to your favorite music while exercising or cleaning your room.  If your goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables, incorporate fruits and vegetables into your favorite foods.  Make a game of it!

5) Reward yourself for past achievements.  So often we focus on what we “need” to do “better,” but think of how much you’ve accomplished!  This is also a time of year to reflect on the goals you have achieved.  Plan on how you will reward yourself when you hit the benchmarks you’ve set for yourself.

Below are some Teenology articles that relate to some common New Year’s resolutions teens may have:

Increasing Exercise

Getting More Sleep

Weight Management

How to Reduce Stress

Effective Time Management Skills

Here’s to a great 2015!  What tips do you have for making and keeping resolutions?