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New Year, New You – SMART Goals & Habit Stacking for Seniors

Are you one of the many people who set ambitious new year resolutions only to throw in the towel after a few weeks? If you are determined to make 2023 your year, do not abandon your desires! With a couple effective methods, you can make your goals stick this year. In today’s blog, we will talk about how to decide on the right goals and how to stick to your new habits with the methods of SMART goals and habit stacking. Plus, we have goals and habit stacking suggestions for seniors to incorporate into the new year. A vast majority of people give up on their goals for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include:

  • Setting unrealistic goals

  • Not having a specific plan of action

  • Failing to establish a habit

  • Lack of support from friends or family

  • Not tracking progress

It can be challenging to achieve a goal that is not achievable from the start, so it’s important to choose a SMART goal.

SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific: Define your goal clearly and specifically

Measurable: Identify a way to measure your progress

Achievable: Choose a goal that you can achieve

Realistic: Decide on a goal that is realistic for you and your life

Timely: Create a deadline to work toward

Let’s look at an example of how to create a SMART goal.

Goal Example: I want to read more.

Specific: I want to read a chapter each evening.

Measurable: I will use a checklist so I can check off a box when I finish a chapter.

Achievable: I have access to my local library.

Realistic: I enjoy reading and I can replace 30 minutes of TV watching with reading.

Timely: At the end of each month, I will review my checklist and see how it has been going.

Habit Stacking

Have you ever tried to incorporate a new habit into your daily routine when your current habits are already well-established? Adding a new habit to your routine can be quite a challenge. However, habit stacking is a method that works with your current habits. Simply identify your current habit and add the new habit before or after the current one.

Goal Example: I want to move my body more.

New habit: I want to stretch or do yoga poses in the morning.

Current habit: I brew coffee in the morning.

Habit stacking: While I wait for my coffee to brew, I will stretch or do yoga poses until my coffee is ready.

By using this habit stacking method, you are much more likely to make a new habit stick!

Goals, Benefits, and Habit Stacking Ideas for Seniors

Improve Your Physical Health

1) Drink more fluids Hydration is an essential factor for healthy aging. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that adults who maintain good levels of hydration have a lower risk of developing chronic conditions leading to a longer life and overall healthier well-being. If an individual does not drink enough fluids, serum sodium levels increase and the individual is at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia. It is recommended that women consume six to nine cups of fluid daily and men consume eight to twelve.

Habit Stacking Idea: Bring a glass of water to bed as part of your night routine so you can drink it first thing in the morning.

2) Increase physical activity

Regular physical activity has many benefits other than weight loss. It can reduce symptoms of arthritis, anxiety, and depression, help control diabetes and high blood pressure, and increase strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance. If you use a cane, walker, or wheelchair, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends slowly raising your arms or legs regularly to increase flexibility. You can also speak with your doctor about how you can safely increase your physical activity.

Habit Stacking Idea: Before getting in the shower, spend a few moments to complete some movement or stretches.

3) Make Healthier Food Swaps

You’ve probably heard the phrases “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “You are what you eat!” at some point in your life. While an apple may not actually keep the doctor away, consuming a healthy and nutritious diet is important for maintaining your health and lowering the risk of developing diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

To achieve a balanced diet, the National Institute on Aging recommends consuming a variety of foods from each food group focusing on getting enough protein, vitamin B12, and fruits and vegetables, and reducing the consumption of added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. The American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables daily.

To make it easier to switch to a healthier diet, consider making simple food swaps such as replacing animal proteins with more heart-protective proteins like salmon and tuna and replacing butter and canola oil with heart-healthy fats like olive and avocado oil.

Habit Stacking Idea: If you tend to eat something sweet like ice cream after dinner, swap the bowl of ice cream with a bowl of yogurt topped with fresh fruit.

Improve Your Brain Health

1) Learn something new

Puzzles, crosswords, and brain-training videos can improve the ability to remember and retrieve information, but they do not expand reasoning and problem solving. It is more beneficial to learn something new that is complex and engages visual comprehension, short and long-term memory, attention to detail, and mathematics.

A study published by Psychology Science found that engaging in activities that promote the use of long-term memory, such as learning digital photography and quilting, can lead to significant improvement in overall memory function among adults aged 60 to 90.

Similarly, a study published by Annals of Neurology reported that speaking more than one language may delay cognitive decline caused by aging.

Habit Stacking Idea: Instead of watching TV immediately after dinner, try spending 30 minutes learning something new before you turn on your favorite show. Depending on the skill, you may be able to do both at the same time – like knitting while watching the news.

2) Read more

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology discovered a connection between reading books and the preservation of memory. Reading books that really draw us in is beneficial for our memory of events, which is the ability to remember what happened in chapters of the book so we can keep reading the story. Reading is also a great practice for our working memory, which helps us follow along with the story and remember the recent paragraphs we just read.

As we get older, both types of memory decline. However, habitual reading improves and strengthens memory skills.

Habit Stacking Idea: When you make your bed in the morning, place a book on it. That way, when it’s time to hit the hay, you already have a great book to help you relax and wind down.

3) Engage in the arts

For seniors, major life events such as relocation, health issues, or the loss of a loved one can cause loneliness and depression. Fortunately, engaging in the creative arts is an excellent way to create positive moods, create social connections, and lead to an improved quality of life.

Examples of artistic activities include writing, photography, puppetry, storytelling, dancing, painting, drawing, choral singing, and crafts.

Habit Stacking Idea: If you drink coffee, try doodling or writing creatively while you savor your brew!

Increase Positive Thinking - Start a gratitude journal and express gratitude toward others

Expressing gratitude can have immense benefits on both mental and physical health. Studies have shown that gratefulness can improve sleep, mood, and immunity, and can decrease depression, anxiety, chronic pain challenges, and even risk of disease.

To express gratefulness, a popular practice is to keep a gratitude journal to list out the main things you are grateful for daily. Another approach is to thank the people around you and send out thank you cards and messages to loved ones.

Habit Stacking Idea: Keep a notebook or journal by your bed so you can write out what you are grateful for before you drift off to sleep.

When it comes to establishing your New Year’s goals, make sure to be SMART about them and develop a habit stacking plan to remain committed to them. If you find that your habit stack is not effective, feel free to change it or experiment with stacking other habits. As a final tip, give yourself a reward for being dedicated to your new habit. Rewards act as incentives and will help you remain motivated to succeed!


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