The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 29, 2012

Speaking of Health 2013: Healthy start to the New Year

By Stephen Campbell, M.D.
Mayo Clinic Health System

MANKATO —

With 2013 upon us, it’s time to create your New Year’s resolutions, which might include tobacco cessation, stress reduction, increased fitness or a weight-loss goal. Please speak with your health care provider before changing your daily routine, especially if you have chronic health issues.

Secret to success

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but not so easy to achieve. The key to success lies in developing a health plan, also known as a wellness plan.

  1. Create a health vision. It’s critical to clearly visualize your goals. The first step is to create a health vision, which is a powerful, broad statement that describes who you want to be once you have met those goals.

Think about a healthy future and what that might look like to you. Convert those thoughts into a short, clear statement -- your health vision.

While there are many ways to write a health vision, one popular format is: “I want ______ so that ________.” For example, “I want to lose weight so that I have more energy to enjoy life.”

  1. Identify your motivators. After you compose a health vision that you feel confident you can attain, determine which motivators will drive your desire to make those changes. Some common motivators are:
  1. Accept challenges and work on strategies. Many people will face challenges that could interfere with realizing established goals. Challenges might include a busy family life, work, school, medical issues or peer pressure to continue bad habits. It’s important to identify potential challenges and envision strategies to address them as part of an effective health plan.
  1. Set SMART goals. Goals will keep you focused on your health vision. Achieving goals produces a feeling of accomplishment that fuels your health journey.

SMART goals are:

Your SMART goals should consist of both long-term and short-term goals. Establish your long-term goal first. For example, “I will walk briskly for 30 minutes a day at least five days a week.”

Then break down your long-term goal into easily achievable, short-term goals. Your initial short-term goal may be, “I will walk 15 minutes during my lunch hour at least three days each week for the next month.”

After reaching your short-term goal, extend your efforts gradually until you ultimately accomplish your long-term goal.

Don’t give up

It can be difficult to make changes to your lifestyle, so ensure that you have a network of family and friends to encourage you during your health journey. Also, consider keeping a health journal to record your activities and achievements, adding to your motivation and accountability.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing, dynamic process. Creating a health plan, engaging your support system and celebrating successes are positive behaviors that will deliver benefits this year and beyond. Use this New Year’s celebration as an opportunity to begin the journey of living a healthier life.

Stephen Campbell, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System family physician. He will offer a free public presentation “A Healthy Start to 2013” in the lower level conference center of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. For more information, please go to www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.