2018 has come and gone. Can you believe it? Just saying 2018 is over seems so strange. Did you achieve the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of last year? Are you at the healthy weight that you envisioned when 2018 started and you set out to lose those extra pounds? Are you still exercising regularly like you wanted to when the year started? Are you continuing to manage your stress better on a day-to-day basis as was your goal last January?
Many people set New Year’s resolutions; however, some statistics show the average person ditches their resolutions after only 14 days. For last year’s New Year column, I highlighted the benefit of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. For this year, I want to continue to encourage setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, but also give some recommendations for accountability.
In 2015, researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland published a study in the British Journal of Health Psychology that found that having an exercise partner significantly increased the amount of exercise performed compared to those without a partner. The researchers also found that emotional support resulted in more exercise performed on average versus practical support, such as encouragement not to miss a session.
While it likely isn’t surprising that having a partner helps with accountability, it is quite interesting to note the extra improvement that was seen with emotional support versus practical support. So here are some of my takeaways from this study as well as some personal recommendations for helping you live the healthy 2019 that you want to live.
First, don’t underestimate how important it is to find a partner to help you remain accountable towards your goals. While it may not be surprising that having a partner increases accountability, in my experience, there are still many who don’t pursue finding a partner to help. I would suggest letting all of your friends and family know what your goals are for the year and try to find someone who will partner with you toward a similar goal.
Second, ask your family and friends to help keep you accountable with your goals. Ask those you are comfortable with to check in with you to discuss your progress on a regular basis. You might be more likely to keep on top of your goals if you know multiple people are going to ask you how they are coming along. This is similar to the practical support from the study where you receive check-ins and encouragement to not miss a session.
Lastly, ensure your environment and the two to three closest people to you (especially your significant other, if applicable) know your goals and understand their role in helping you achieve those goals. This goes beyond recommendation number two where you have multiple people to check-in with for practical support, to having the deep emotional support from those you’re closest to. This is vitally important.
I will never forget a patient of mine that was desperate to quit smoking. They had already experienced significant health impacts and even a heart attack. They were successful in quitting smoking for a couple of weeks. Through those weeks, their spouse and close family were supportive and didn’t smoke around them. However, as time went on, the family began smoking around them again and leaving their cigarettes around the house. It wasn’t long until my patient had picked up the habit again. Even though the patient made the commitment to stop smoking, their environment and lack of support from close family members completely derailed that goal.
So when looking at your goals, examine your environment and emotional support system for things that might hinder them. If it’s something your significant other or close friends can help you with, let them know. Let them know how important your goals are to you and how their support can be instrumental in helping you achieve your goals. If there are negative behaviors impacting you, let them know why you want to achieve your goals, the positive changes you want to make, and how their behaviors are impacting you.
Whatever your goals are this year, take a look at your environment and the people around you who can form your support system. Don’t underestimate how important that support system is and take whatever steps you can to strengthen that support system with the recommendations above. In my next column, we’ll continue our series on the placebo and nocebo effects.
Nick McClary earned his doctor of physical therapy from the University of Tennessee. He also holds a masters in business administration. Nick is a native of Georgetown County, lives in Pawleys Island, and works in Murrells Inlet. Send him your health and fitness goals at: firstname.lastname@example.org.