How to achieve your 2022 New Year’s resolutions despite COVID-19

Having sustainable plans to meet your goals is key.

At the beginning of every new year, millions of people throughout the world set new goals associated with fitness, finances or embarking on a new endeavor. After two years of a worldwide pandemic, however, our general New Year’s resolution list may look a little different.

“Some of the classic New Year’s resolutions that involve the whole year and long-term rewards may not be that motivating to people,” says Dr. Carl Fleisher, a psychiatrist with the Jane and Terry Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA .

 

“People may try to do things that allow them to feel connected with other people. They’ll focus on doing more things that are fun instead of things that may be good for (them) down the line but don’t feel that good right now.”

The rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths associated with the omicron variant have many people feeling despair. They may not have the same zeal they once had when it comes to setting new goals for 2022 – and that’s valid.

But if people want to try to set achievable goals, Dr. Fleisher says there are ways to do so.

“A lot of people feel discouraged, demoralized and sort of tired of slogging through everything related to COVID,” he says. “At the same time, there are opportunities to take on challenges that we can get satisfaction from.”

Focusing on 2022

People may not have reached their fitness goals from 2021 due to the burden the pandemic placed on them and their families. Others may have started projects from resolutions they made last year, but never got to finish them. The beauty of a new year is that it’s a chance to start again.

Dr. Fleisher reminds us that we do not want to let the fear or anxiety from what we have been through over the last two years prevent us from accomplishing our goals.

“Many people are fearful. Fear can paralyze us from doing the things that are healthy or useful,” he says. We should find safe ways to stay connected to loved ones as much as possible, he suggests, because that connection and accountability is essential to helping us stay committed to our goals.

“If I can go somewhere with a mask on, then I’m going to go," he says. "The more that we do, the more that we go and the more that we see people, the better we feel. That helps our motivation to take better care of ourselves.”

Sticking to goals

As we continue to grapple with COVID-19 into a new calendar year, setting goals and sustaining the energy to see them through will be harder for many people. However, there are strategies we can apply to help us accomplish what we want.

According to Dr. Fleisher, two main ingredients for success are having someone or something that can hold you accountable, and having a plan that’s sustainable.

Finding an accountability partner is one way to make sure you are staying consistent with the actions needed to meet your goals. When motivation driven by the emotion and excitement of the new year dies down, Dr. Fleisher says, a partner can help keep you focused and on task.

As a whole, our society has adopted the tradition of making resolutions at the top of the year, but millions of those resolutions are quit on before midyear. Dr. Fleisher believes that poor planning is the reason why so many goals are not achieved.

“You have to take time to plan it. We all have goals, but what turns goals into success is some sort of plan,” he said. “Often, where people falter is that there is no plan. They have a goal and they just start doing stuff without a plan.”

A sustainable plan means taking small steps toward your overall goal. This could be as simple as committing to working out for 30 minutes a day if you want to level up in fitness, or writing one to two pages a day if your goal is to write a book.

The acronym SMART is useful, Dr. Fleisher says, to achieving success:

  • S(pecific): What exactly is the goal? What am I doing today to reach that goal?
  • M(easurable): How do I measure what the goal is?
  • A(chievable): Are my steps broken down into small enough parts so I can do them?
  • R(elevant): Did I pick something that matters to me so I’m motivated enough to do it?
  • T(ime): How much time am I going to spend on this goal daily?

“Just writing it down helps,” Dr. Fleisher says.  “If people can define each of those elements, they’ll be close to making headway on their goals.”

One resolution to consider is rescheduling routine medical appointments that were delayed or missed during the pandemic. If you haven’t visited your primary care physician in more than a year, consider making an appointment.


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