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Get your resolutions off the ground

A smiling older man.

Detailed resolutions are easier to maintain. A dog says, I will only chase the cat once a day.

Jan. 2, 2020—First you make them, then you break them. If this sounds like your track record for New Year's resolutions, there are ways to help make them stick this year.

1. Be clear and realistic. A successful resolution is all about the details. Scrap those fuzzy resolutions, such as "I'm going to get fit" or "I'm going to eat better." Substitute them with clear, realistic goals, such as "I'll exercise for 30 minutes at least three days a week" or "I'll eat five servings of fruits or vegetables a day."

2. Change one behavior at a time. Let that become a habit before you tackle another resolution. Most unhealthy behaviors develop gradually. For staying power, it's best to change them gradually too.

3. Share your resolutions. The encouragement of friends and family can help you stay motivated. It's harder to break a promise to yourself when those around you are aware of what you're trying to accomplish. You might even pair up with a "resolution buddy"—someone who shares the same goal.

4. Focus on "why." If you want to stop smoking, for instance, what's your motivation? To reduce health risks? Save money? Be a good example for others? Whatever your goal, list your reasons and let them inspire you.

5. Wait out the urges. Most unhealthy urges pass quickly. So before you give in, let 10 minutes go by. But don't wait idly. Distract yourself. Get up and move around or do something fun.

6. Bounce back. Don't give up or scold yourself if you slip up. A setback doesn't mean you've failed. Stay positive and learn from it. Ask yourself: "What can I do differently to avoid this happening again?" And instead of dwelling on setbacks, congratulate yourself on any steps forward you've already made.

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