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For many of us, certain times of year are synonymous with setting goals, especially for our wellbeing. New Year’s, the start of the school year, and the changing of seasons all come to mind as moments in time when we’re inclined to see the opportunity to switch out old habits for new.
But how can we ensure our health and wellbeing goals are achievable? How can we make new habits sustainable long-term?
Deciding on a goal (you’ll need time and space)
Whatever your wellbeing goals may be, start with space. Before diving in, take some time to brainstorm and reflect. Do you have any existing habits you’d like to maintain or build upon? Do you have some newly acquired not-so-positive behaviors that you’d like to replace? While you may have more than one wellbeing goal you’d like to pursue, it’s best to start with one. Think about your why and how. Is one of your wellbeing goals more important or more practical to achieve given your present circumstances? Considering your why and how are a key part of deciding on a goal, and how to best pursue it.
For example, if you want to walk daily to improve your mood and mobility, that’s a great why, but how will you do it? Can you make time for a stroll on your lunch break? Is it safe or reasonable to walk to work? How could the weather affect this plan?
Get started by jotting down your goal with your game plan (including what, why and how). Leave it overnight or even a couple of days. When some time has elapsed, give your ideas a second look. Do you still feel excited about this? Does your plan still seem doable?
Making your goals (and habits) SMART
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-related. For example, if your goal is to start journaling, you’d make it specific by saying what you want to journal about, measurable by adding how often and for how long, achievable by adapting your expectations to your current abilities, relevant by aligning them with your values, and time-related by adding a start and end date. So a goal of "I want to journal" would become "I want to journal about my thoughts and feelings every weekday for at least 5 minutes on my lunch hour starting Monday next week for the next three 3 months".
Making a new wellbeing habit SMART increases your odds of success and makes it more sustainable long-term, but to make your habits even more sustainable, you’ll want to leverage a few more ways to stay motivated.
Staying motivated (and on track)
Incentives can be really helpful in building new habits—and evidence supports this idea . So, if you’re making progress and reaching milestones on the road to reaching your goal, actively reward yourself.
That said, you’ll want to select your incentives carefully and beware of rewards that sabotage your goals (ahem, such as skipping your workout when you’re trying to make exercise a daily habit). Ideally, incentives reinforce the routine or habit you want to build, like streaming your favorite show on the treadmill, or buying fun new workout clothes to wear to the gym after you go a month without missing a sweat session.
But even the best-thought-out Incentives work better when paired with support. Share your goal with someone you trust to offer you encouragement. Ask them to check in with you regularly or if you can update them on your progress regularly.
Some people are very motivated by the mere presence of someone else to witness their actions. If this is you, make a point of asking a friend or joining a group to practice your habit in company.
Building new wellbeing habits and routines can seem like a lot when you’re first getting started. Making your goals sustainable (and SMART) can help. Want more support achieving your wellbeing goals? Log in to Foundations, today.
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The Team @ Koa Health
Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.