How to achieve your health goals in 2017

If you've made it your goal to achieve a healthier 2017, your chances of fulfilling that New Year's resolution are better than you think.

About 44 percent of people who resolve to make changes in the New Year actually succeed, according to studies conducted by John Norcross, professor of psychology at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. And with that good news, here are four ways to make sure you're one of the successful 44 percent.

1. Plan and prepare.

Set a realistic goal, not a grandiose one. For example, aim to lose 10 pounds and keep it off rather than trying to lose 50. Then, create an action plan to reach your goal, Norcross said. If you want personalized help, contact NPF's Patient Navigation Center.

Throughout the holiday season, our specially-trained Patient Navigators are here to help you prepare for a healthy 2017. We'll work with you to set measurable goals, create a custom action plan and track your progress. You can sign up for a free goal-setting session, text 503-410-7766 or call 1-800-723-9166, option 1 to talk to a navigator. 

"Before Jan. 1, think specifically about what you'll do to counter problem behaviors and practice incorporating those changes," he advised.

Don't be overzealous with the number of goals you set, suggested Dr. Will Meek, a counseling psychologist in Vancouver, Washington, who also has written extensively about motivation and goal-setting. 

“Research shows that two to three goals should be your maximum,” Meek said. “People who narrow their goals down are more likely to succeed than people who try to do it all. This is why we so often fail at New Year’s resolutions. Ten resolutions are overwhelming. Two are doable." 

The goals that are most needed are "the ones you’re most likely to do,” he added.

2. Bolster self-confidence.

"Having confidence you can succeed is a potent predictor of success, and making a plan builds confidence," Norcross said. "You see a clear path forward and feel ready to take it."

Start by giving yourself your own pep talk. “Research on attitude all points to the value of ‘positive self-talk,’ ” Meek said.

Examples of positive self-talk are “I can do this” and “This is good for me.”

“Make something like that your mantra,” Meek suggested. “A goal-focused attitude is important for sustaining effort. You are, in effect, internalizing the support your best friend would give you.”

Once you've amped yourself up, ask for support from people who've already been successful in reaching the goal you hope to reach.  

If you are not sure where to find support, contact NPF's Patient Navigation Center. Our navigators are here to offer guidance and connect you to other resources in your area, including NPF's One-to-One Mentor Program, which pairs you with individuals just like you who know what it's like to live with psoriasis.

3. Aim for incremental progress.

Making a meaningful behavior change is a step-by-step process, Norcross said.

"The idea that you have to make a dramatic change or it's not worth doing is a set-up for resignation and failure. Self change is a process and a skill, and like any other skill, such as playing tennis or becoming an accomplished baker, improvement is gradual and ongoing, with the key being persistent—but not instantaneous—movement toward the goal," he said.

If losing weight is one of your goals, here are some tips to keep you motivated.  

4. Prepare for slips and avoid self-blame.

Did you suffer a setback or miss a target? Don’t give up! Expect the occasional slips and plan what you'll do when they happen, said Norcross. Getting stuck in self-blame is your least productive option.

"In our studies, blaming oneself for slips or imperfect success is one of the strong predictors of failure," Norcross said. "By self-denigrating, people focus solely on what went wrong and begin to resign themselves to failure."

He said that slips can even improve self-confidence when you expect and react positively to them.

Meek agreed. “Immediately recommit after a slip-up,” he said. “Tell yourself, ‘Yes, I could’ve done better today, but I’ll do better tomorrow.'"

From all of us at the National Psoriasis Foundation, good luck, and have a happy and healthy 2017!

Written by Emily Delzell, Steve Bieler and Kathryn Jones 

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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