Setting Health Goals for the New School Year

The upcoming 2013-2014 school year offers all students an opportunity to begin establishing a fresh set of habits and goals. As you begin to focus your attention on academic and extra-curricular endeavors, you may observe that health related goals get pushed to the back burner.

 Perhaps you feel you have too much on your plate to devote your attention to your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Or maybe, you associate healthy living with following a rigid diet, losing weight quickly, and participating in physical movement that far exceeds your level of comfort. When you look at health from this perspective, it’s easy to develop a “why even bother mentality.” 

But, what if pursuing health related goals could be manageable and enjoyable? What if instead of feeling intimated by them you could feel empowered to begin taking tiny steps to improve your health? Here are some tips for how you can begin to create goals that will inspire you to stay motivated to stick with healthy habits for the entire semester. 

Start out small 

When it comes to creating manageable goals you’re going to stick with, it is important to start out small. For example, if you’re used to only going to the gym once every two weeks, it may be unrealistic to make yourself a goal to work out 5 days each week. Instead you may want to aim for making time to exercise 2 or 3 times a week. It is important to also keep in mind that having too many goals can be overwhelming. Start out by creating 2 to 3 goals to prevent feelings of discouragement later on in the semester.

Identify the “why” behind maintaining a healthy lifestyle 

You’re more likely to be successful at executing health goals if you begin by understanding the core reasons behind why living a healthy lifestyle is important to you. You’ll benefit more from this exercise if you focus on your intrinsic motivations rather than your extrinsic motivations. For example, instead of saying “I eat healthy because it helps me to fit into a smaller pants size,” you could say, “I eat healthy because it helps me to feel more energetic, focused, and comfortable in my body.” Remember that we find time in our schedule for the activities that are in alignment with our core desires and values. 

Identify challenges and how you will overcome them

 An essential element to successfully executing goals is to identify and address challenges you may experience along the way. Ask yourself about the areas in your life that have made it difficult to accomplish your health related goals? For example, if finding time in your schedule to workout is a challenge, a solution may be to organize your schedule and activities so you can make room to exercise in the day. You may also want to consider having a workout partner to give yourself extra motivation to hit the gym when you're tired. For more advice on how to make the most of partner workouts check out this post

The exciting thing about the beginning of the academic year is that you get the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and reflect on how you want to make positive changes for a new semester. If health is important to you it is time to set aside excuses and negative thoughts and begin making choices that will positively impact your health today.