Making Healthy New Year’s Resolutions that StickPosted by Medicare Made Clear
2013 is almost here—a new year, with new possibilities! It’s a tradition for many people to make New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier life. But for some of us, our holiday party decorations last longer than those resolutions.
If you’d like some help keeping your resolutions for 2013, then consider the kinds of resolutions you make. In general, you want to make resolutions that are SMART. “SMART” is an acronym whose letters stand for the following characteristic: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
People generally do better meeting a specific goal over a more general one. For example: instead of making the resolution to “live healthier,” try making a specific list of your healthy living resolutions. For example, you might want 2013 to be the year you get current with your preventive health screenings. Those might include getting your flu and pneumonia vaccines, or going in for a mammogram or colonoscopy.
The Preventive Services Checklist at Medicare.gov can help you work with your doctor to make a list of Medicare-covered tests and screenings that are right for you.
Making your resolutions specific is a good start. But you also need to be able to measure whether or not you’re making progress towards successfully keeping that resolution. For each of your resolutions, answer the question, “How do I know when I’ve done it?”
For example, if you want a healthier 2013, one good resolution would be to schedule (and go to) your annual Medicare Wellness Visit. You pay no deductible and no copay for the visit; they’re paid for by Medicare Part B. And you can clearly note when you’ve met that goal, and can move onto others. Your wellness visit is also a great opportunity to talk with your doctor about what types of preventive tests and screenings you need. So you can help connect one resolution to another, so that keeping one can put you on the path to keeping the next one.
The third term is a good reminder to make resolutions that are realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making resolutions which are so extreme that you couldn’t possibly attain them. You might need to stretch a bit, but you shouldn’t have to totally transform your life.
For example, if you’re adding physical activity to your life after being mostly sedentary, then two hours a day of exercise may not be attainable. After talking to your doctor, set exercise goals of duration and frequency that you can meet. Also, to maximize your chance for success think through how to scale potential obstacles ahead of time. If you live in a wintry area of the country, how can you get exercise in January? And if you like to socialize with friends, consider finding an exercise buddy. That way, you can encourage one another, hold one another accountable and otherwise help one another attain your healthy living goals.
When making your New Year’s resolutions, make sure to include goals that matter to you—and help you feel like you matter to the world around you. One area to consider is volunteering your time and talents to a nonprofit organization that matters to you. You can meet with a volunteer coordinator to work out a do-able number of hours per month or week that are attainable—or work on a specific project.
The great thing about volunteering is that we know that helping others can actually benefit your physical and mental health. So, once again, keeping one resolution can help you with other ones.
Lastly, it can be helpful to establish a deadline for your resolutions. Having a timeline can help add some urgency to the task, which can help you focus your efforts to accomplish it. This is especially true for resolutions which are one-time-only, like going to your Medicare Wellness Visit.
You can do it!
Whatever you do, keep in mind that a year offers multiple opportunities to start over should you need to put aside your resolutions, for whatever reason. You don’t need January 1 as an excuse to make healthy changes in your life, though it can be a convenient starting point. Just stay SMART and take it one step at a time.
For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
- Medicare Memo: Stay Active This Winter – Recent Medicare Made Clear blog post
- Medicare & You: Stay Healthy with Medicare’s Preventive Benefits – Video from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
- Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services (PDF) – Overview booklet from Medicare.gov
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