Resolutions lagging? Don’t give up!

How is that New Year’s resolution going?

It’s February and plenty of people are looking back at a tough January and a pile of broken resolutions. But don’t be discouraged, said Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation President Stephen Prescott, M.D.

“Creating new habits can be difficult. Breaking bad ones can be even harder,” he said. “Much of our daily lives are filled with ingrained habits we’ve had for years. So if you’ve tried and failed, it’s time to try again.”

According to a Gallup poll, former smokers had to quit using tobacco an average of 6.1 times before they finally kicked the habit.

“That’s for smoking—one of the deadliest habits around—and people had to try again and again to stop,” he said. “So it’s okay if, at the end of January, you weren’t completely on track. The key is getting back up when you fall.”

To restart your resolution, try these steps to give yourself a better chance for success this time around, Prescott said.

1. Prepare. Making the decision to change is important, but you have to set yourself up to succeed, he said. If you’re trying a new diet, go shopping and get the foods you’ll need for the week’s meals. If you’re beginning a workout regimen, talk to your doctor and make sure you have the right equipment.

“Even if your resolution is just to read more this year, you need to prepare. Choose a book and set aside the time in your schedule to read or else it just won’t happen,” he said.

2. Get help. Struggling with a new lifestyle can seem lonely, but other people are doing the same thing. Finding a support group—be it a friend at the gym or joining a healthy eating club online—takes some of the pressure off, Prescott said.

“If you’re technologically inclined, a smartphone can be a great tool to help stay on track,” he said. “Calendars, to-do lists and reminders are wonderful all-purpose helpers, but there are also apps that make your tasks into games to keep things interesting.”

Zombies, Run! is an app that keeps runners going by putting a zombie horde at their heels through audio storytelling and using GPS to “pick up supplies.” CARROT is a to-do list with an attitude, punishing users when they take too long to complete tasks.

3. Keep track. Over time, the motivation to keep up with goals can fade. But writing down progress can reinvigorate the willpower to keep going, he said.

“Those looking to eat healthier find it’s easier if they write down everything they’re eating,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s as simple as marking down today’s completed task and not wanting to break your streak.”

Don’t want to step on the scale? Take measurements instead. Log minutes or miles. Anything that helps you chart progress can help.

The most important thing is to try again, Prescott said.

“We may call them New Year’s resolutions, but if you want to make a change, there’s no reason to wait another year to start,” he said.