Big resolutions? Start small

This year, tackle your most daunting New YearÂ’s Resolutions with a different approach.

The life cycle of a New Year’s Resolution is dishearteningly predictable: The exciting prospect of becoming a better person with a fresh new slate to start on; the slowing moment of doubt when we realize how much work, sacrifice or self-control achieving our resolution will actually require; then finally, the disappointing deflation that comes when we go right back to doing what we’ve always done. Why not skip the soap opera by going about your traditional resolutions in a new way?

This year, take a less-is-more mentality to your list of resolutions. It can work for almost any goal, from getting fit to de-cluttering to living with less stress. The heart of the idea is finding one small way to help your resolution become reality, and that a step in the right direction, even a small step, puts you in a better place than you were before. Here’s how it can work with some resolutions that might be on your list for the New Year:

Big resolution: Exercise every day of the week. 

How to start small: Move for 10 minutes, three times a day.Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, but at the end of a long workday, hitting the elliptical machine for even the span of a sitcom can seem out of reach. Fortunately, short bursts of activity that add up to 30 minutes a day can bring the same benefits, according to The American Heart Association.

So set a timer on your phone and make an effort to move for 10 minutes, three times a day. Run up and down the stairs in your house. Get up from your desk and power-walk around the office, skyway or parking lot. Chase your kids around the yard. Give in to your dog’s pleading looks and take him for a brisk walk. Getting your body in motion for just 10 minutes at a time is totally doable — and can still have a big impact on your health and energy level. 

Big resolution: Eat healthier.  

How to start small: Eat one “good” thing a day.

After the delectable excess of the holidays, it’s tempting to want to take a strict approach to eating a healthier diet in the New Year. But inevitably, fidelity to the calorie-counting phone apps and adherence to the “no wine on weeknights” rule wanes and we fall back into eating what we usually eat.

Instead of trying to take an all-or-nothing approach to the foods we love (and those we love yet know we shouldn’t), turn the “dieting” paradigm upside down by adding one healthy item a day. It could be starting out the day with a scrambled egg for a protein boost, having a salad with your soup at lunchtime or adding a new vegetable at dinner (almost any veggie can be roasted or steamed to good effect). After awhile, you might notice that you’ll naturally start adding more good things — and letting some of the not-so-smart choices fall away.

Big resolution: Kick annoying habits

How to start small: Make a small move in the right direction.  

Stop using plastic bags, stop smoking, stop worrying so much, stop chewing your fingernails. Many of us resolve to stop doing something — for good — this year. Like any absolute, it’s almost bound to fail. But what we can do is try to break old routines or habits by doing one new thing that changes the dynamic of what we did before.

Think of one little way you could make progress toward changing what you’d like to change. Can you buy one fold-up grocery bag you keep in your glove compartment? Take one deep breath when you crave a smoke? Write down your worries each night before bed? Even if your mind still spins for a few minutes after the lights are out or you still choose to light up that smoke, you’re one step closer to letting go of the habit you’d like to stop doing.

Putting a fresh filter on how you look at your New Year’s Resolutions can give you the motivation you need to really follow through this year. So remember: For those big resolutions, start with baby steps.