Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Sticking with resolutions

I like this time of year, when many of us pause to consider how we can be healthier and happier in the new year. If you smoke, you might resolve to quit come Jan. 1. If you’re overweight, you might vow to slim down. If you drink too much alcohol, you might pledge to stop. All worthy goals.

But sometimes I think big resolutions pegged to a certain date set people up for failure. What if you’re determined to exercise more in the new year but get the flu in January? If you can’t meet your goal the first few weeks, will you be able to fend off feelings of failure and stick with it the rest of the year?

Over the years, I’ve written and edited stories about New Year’s resolutions, how to create lasting health habits and how to find and keep motivation. Here are some things I’ve learned:

  • Resolutions can work, experts have said, but people need to be able to cut themselves slack if they drop the ball on some days. No one’s perfect. But doing better — eating more healthfully, smoking less, exercising more, etc. — much of the time is pretty awesome.
  • There’s no magic number of time it takes to form a new health habit; experts I’ve spoken with have said it takes anywhere from six to 12 weeks. Whatever the number, it’s safe to say that each day you stick with a change, you’re more likely to stick with it for another day — and another and another and another. So, focus on what you can do today, not on what you might do the whole year long.
  • As for motivation, it isn’t something that magically appears on a certain date each year. According to Dr. Maha Alattar, a neurologist/sleep specialist and Healthy Living columnist, motivation is fueled from within — from the pleasure you derive from doing something. Motivation comes from passion and internal rewards — not because the calendar says it’s time to do something. So, figure out what you passionately want for yourself, and think of how you’ll benefit from it.

Most of us want the same basic things — to be healthy and happy. Three popular resolutions people make each year reflect that: 1) Eat better/lose weight; 2) Exercise more; 3) Quit smoking/drinking.

As for me, I think it’s important to get outside each day; to  manage stress with exercise, music, quiet time and time with loved ones; to sleep 8 hours a night; and to see the glass as half full, not half empty. I also love the advice given in a recent Healthy Living story, to ask yourself, before eating anything: How is this going to make me feel? The answer to that question can be a great motivator to put into your body only things that will make you feel strong and energetic.

If you’ve made a resolution you’d like to share, or have stuck with one in the past, or have advice for those making resolutions for the  new year, please let me know either by commenting on this post or sending an email to