TWIN FALLS — We’re two days into 2017. Keeping up with your New Year’s resolutions so far?
It’s a popular time of year for self-improvement goals and lifestyle changes. But it’s often challenging to stay on track.
Maybe you picked a easily broken resolution like losing weight and getting fitter, quitting smoking, eating healthier, saving money, volunteering more and reducing stress.
Gillian Funk, owner of Studio G in Twin Falls, has helped people with goal setting for years.
She said she loves going into a new year — particularly, the focus on resetting and “positive vibes and hopeful thoughts.”
A key ingredient behind keeping resolutions: finding a “deeper why” behind the goal, she said. “The ones that stick it out and make it succeed are the people who have a reason.”
It’s also important to find “people and an environment that’s going to support your goals,” Funk said, whether at home or at a gym.
And don’t tackle a goal all at once, Funk said. Take baby steps to get there and celebrate little victories.
“People have to look at it as a lifelong process,” she said. “It’s a journey. It’s not just going to happen in three months.”
Here are some tips on how to succeed at some common resolutions:
Instead of making a vague goal of “eating healthier,” set SMART goals, said Sarah Renaldi, a registered dietitian/nutritionist at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center.
The SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
For example, one goal may be to make dinner at home every night for a week, Renaldi said. It’s a way of breaking down a big resolution to “one little change at a time.”
Also, avoid fad diets that promise unrealistic outcomes, she said. It’s more helpful to pursue long-term lifestyle changes.
Not sure where to start? Try eating a nutritious breakfast that includes at least three food groups, Renaldi said.
That helps reduce hunger throughout the day and prevent “grazing.”
Prepare healthy snacks that include a protein and produce. That could be a handful of almonds with a piece of fruit or string cheese with baby carrots.
Renaldi also suggests reducing portion sizes, using smaller plates and using measuring cups to determine a serving size.
Plus, “don’t drink your calories,” she said. Soda, energy drinks and cocktails “can all pack on the calories without you feeling full.”
If you’re looking for a flavorful drink, try green tea instead, she suggests.
Roman Vela, sales manager and personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in Twin Falls, is already seeing an influx of people at the gym. That started even before Christmas.
“More people are coming in,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of new people.”
But that doesn’t usually last. Vela typically sees a drop in numbers by March.
What can you do to stay motivated? If you join a gym, go with a buddy, Vela said. “If they have a friend they can come with, they can up their chances of succeeding with their New Year’s resolution.”
Another way to stay engaged: participate in small group exercise classes, he said. Many gyms also have weight loss and fitness challenges that begin in January.
Set realistic expectations about how much you’ll exercise, Funk said. “If you’re brand new, it’s going to be a lot on your body.”
Taking on too much at once is a way to get burned out, she said. “There’s a reason why gyms are empty in March.”
Set a doable goal, such as getting moving two or three times a week, Funk said, and find physical activities you enjoy doing.
Let’s face it: It’s unrealistic to completely eliminate stress in our lives. But there are ways to help manage it.
A good first step is to be mindful that you’re stressed out, said Margaret Quatraro, a yoga instructor at Studio G. “Some of us are a little bit in stress denial.”
On Saturday, she led a combination goal-setting and yoga class. It was a chance for attendees to alleviate stress, reflect on 2016 and look a little deeper at setting goals for the coming year.
One stress reduction technique is taking slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose. “A lot of yoga is about breathing,” Quatraro said.
Plus, deep breathing is “an instant stress relief button,” she said, and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Another tip: try to avoid overstimulating, such as drinking too many caffeinated beverages.
If you’re having a hard time dealing with stress, pinpoint “people and events that are going to cause stress” and avoid them, Quatraro said.
And practice self-care. “It’s OK to take time outs,” she said, such as going for a walk or taking a hot bath.
Quatraro has practiced yoga for more than a decade and has been an instructor for a year and a half.
“It’s just something I’ve used in my life in so many stressful times or sadness,” she said. “It has been medicine for all different ailments that have cropped up in my life.”
Quatraro started teaching yoga classes in Twin Falls shortly after moving from Seattle.
“Twin Falls was the perfect place to start,” she said. “Yoga here is a budding culture and community.”
One strategy to save money or plan for retirement is doing it over a long period of time, and setting up automatic deductions from your paycheck or checking account.
That’s advice from Rob Sturgill, a certified financial planner for Edward Jones Investments in Twin Falls.
“Especially for those who are just starting, it doesn’t take a lot of money to invest or accumulate wealth,” he said. “It takes a little bit over a long period of time.”
Sturgill also encourages his clients to take advantage of retirement fund options.
If your employer offers a retirement plan — especially, if they offer matching funds — take full advantage of that, Sturgill said.
For employees, “that’s money they’re leaving on the table if they’re not using the retirement plan,” he said. He added it’s a good idea to review your retirement plan at least once a year.
If your employer doesn’t offer retirement benefits, anyone who earns income can open a traditional or Roth IRA, Sturgill said.
And one of the best ways to save money is to set up an automatic deduction out of your paycheck or checking account specifically for savings, Sturgill said.
It’s setting up something “that’s treated like another bill,” he added.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, there are resources to help. One option: South Central Public Health District offers an adult smoking cessation program. There are five-week sessions with a class one night per week.
Officials from SCPHD weren’t available to comment. For more information, visit https://phd5.idaho.gov/tobacco/index.htm.
Want to help a nonprofit organization? The Times-News and Magicvalley.com runs a weekly list on Thursdays called “Somebody Needs You” with local options.
Idaho typically gets high marks for volunteerism.
Nationwide, the Gem State ranked 14th in 2007 for the percentage of residents who volunteered at least once a year, at 35.1 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
But it ranked much higher — in second, behind only Utah — for the number of volunteer hours, retention rate and percentage of college students who volunteer.