New Year's resolution tips offered for variety of goals

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

'Slow and steady' wins the race

A new year is exciting because it brings the chance to wipe the slate clean and start over again, and no sooner than the holidays conclude, it's just a matter of time before someone asks, 'What are your New Year's resolutions?

Whether you are among those who decide to make them, or not, research shows that about 50 percent of Americans seek to sincerely make some type of change or improvement when a new year begins, according to University of Missouri Expert David Burton, civic communication specialist.

Some of the most common are losing weight and getting out of debt.

But do they really work? And is it even worthwhile to make resolutions, when so many find they are just a distant memory a short way into the new year?

Yes. But the key is to get specific, breaking the 'elephant' down into small bites, then making those new behaviors stick.

According to research, those who set a specific goal (such as, 'I will walk 30 minutes most days') have a better chance at nailing that goal than those who set general ones, like, ('I'm going to get in shape this year').

"People who make one or two changes at a time are also more likely to be successful than those who try to change everything all at once," said Burton.

For those looking to lose weight, Burton offers these four 'small change' tips:

Pay more attention to the calories in your drinks. According to a Tuft's University publication, Americans get 21 percent of their daily calories from what they drink.

Fill up on a variety of fruits and vegetables. They are low in calories and are packed with disease-fighting nutrients. Fill half your plate with veggies and fruit at lunch, and dinner.

Be more physically active. Exercise can help burn calories and contribute to an overall feeling of well-being. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.

Burton also offers tips in the financial arena, which, like every other area one intends to change, are easier to keep if no drastic changes are made.

"A good place to begin is to set some goals related to saving," he said. Here are his tips:

Start by preparing for the unexpected.

"What happens if you get sick or injured and cannot work for a few months," said Burton. "Or the refridgerator stops working and needs to be replaced. It is recommended that we have three to six months of living expenses in an emergency savings fund. Trying to reach that amount may seem overwhelming, and may be a major reason many people don't have an emergency fund. However, it can be doable if you save a little every day or every week."

Burton adds that by setting aside just one dollar each day, a person will have saved $365 in a year. "While that is not enough to meet the guidelines in one year, it is a great start," he said.

Then there are questions to ponder.

"Are there some habits you could give up or reduce?" Burton says. "Could you save at least a portion of your income tax refund? Are there ways you could bring in additional income, or reduce some expenses? Could you make your savings automatic by having money withheld from each paycheck Planned savings is the key to long-term financial success."

Burton also offers tips for farmers, as agronomy specialists with the Extension have several resolutions they are recommending for area farmers in 2018.

Farm resolutions

Soil test fields before applying lime or fertilizer in order to save money; cut fescue hay by mid-May instead of mid-June to maximize forage nutrient content; shut off running farm equipment before working on it; tag cows and calves and record birth dates of calves; and rotate cattle in pastures at least once a week."

Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension, offers another view on weight loss, adding that extreme exercise and diet plans aren't the way to go.

The sayings, 'slow and steady wins the race,' and, 'be a packhorse, not a racehorse,' hold a lot of wisdom when it comes to reaching one's goals.

"Experts agree the best and safest way to lose weight and keep it off is with a slow and steady approach," she said. "That approach also doesn't hurt your wallet or your health."

She shared these tips:

Make veggies more tasty by roasting them. Mix a medley of veggies with olive oil, then roast for 45 minutes to an hour on 375 degrees.

"The roasting will bring out the sweetness of the veggies, and the browning will cause a little caramelization of the natural sugars in the veggies," Duitsman said.

Begin building lean body mass by starting with some basic strength training.

"You will not only burn calories and build muscle, but you will also benefit your physical and mental health," Duitsman said. "For many people, strength training tends to suppress appetite and cravings."

Pay attention to your mental and spiritual health.

"This can pay big dividends with weight control since you won't be reaching for food to combat anxiety," Duitsman said.

Tips Duitsman offers for reducing stress and anxiety include keeping a gratitude journal, cultivating friendships, setting boundaries, restructuring priorities, getting physical activity, breathing exercises, prayer, meditation and volunteering.

Even if losing weight, finances or farming are not on one's radar, there is always room for improvement and expansion in a new year. Perhaps perpetuating acts of kindness then encouraging the recipient to pay it forward could be one goal, or resolving to finally give some time to charities, be there for a child, volunteer for an organization, make more business contacts, or take in a homeless pet, could be others.

Whatever they may be, just remember to be specific, and make one or two small changes at a time, to keep them.