Accountability is what keeps us all on track, but most of us struggle when we’re answering only to ourselves — especially when it comes to health and wellness.
Add in work stress, family obligations, and the constant presence of unhealthy food, and staying accountable becomes extremely difficult.
But if you want to have a long, healthy life, then sooner or later, you’ve got to figure out how to hold yourself accountable, even when (or, perhaps, especially when) life gets complicated.
Searching for accountability could be why you joined Forever FIT (or are considering it). Becoming part of a group aligned around a common goal is a great way to stay accountable, and Forever FIT is designed to create lifelong healthy-living habits. But that isn’t the only way to create accountability for yourself, so I'm going to let you in on a few of our secrets (which are really not “secret” at all).
Here are four tools for staying accountable for the long haul — all of which you can enact on your own.
1. Writing Things Down Creates Accountability
It may seem trivial, but the simple act of writing down your goals increases your accountability and your chance of success. One study found that writing down a goal makes you 42% more likely to achieve it.
One theory to explain this phenomenon is that we use our right brain to think about goals, and our left — or logic-based — brain when writing. By putting our goals into writing, we tap into both hemispheres of the brain and this could help cement the idea in our minds. At the very least, if you write something down and put it in a prominent location, you’ll have a daily reminder (i.e. accountability) of what you’d like to achieve.
2. Concrete and Specific Goals Increase Accountability
Imagine you’re throwing a dinner party, and you’re rushing around the kitchen in the last frantic moments before the meal is served. A friend wanders in and says, “You look busy. Can I help?”
Now rewind the scene. But instead of asking you a question, the friend walks into the kitchen, sees several platters of food, and says, “I’ll take these to the table for you.” Generic offers of assistance are well-meaning, but not particularly helpful. The person who arrives with a specific action is the true lifesaver.
When you’re trying to hold yourself accountable, be the second person — make your goal(s) specific and concrete. A promise to “eat healthier” is too vague. Instead, pledge to cook dinner at home five out of seven nights. Suddenly you have a specific, achievable goal and a metric by which you can hold yourself accountable.
3. Accountability Means Celebrating Progress and Milestones
People often focus on the final goal and neglect to honor the smaller milestones they achieve along the way. But when you only celebrate the end result, it’s easy to get discouraged, especially when you’re in pursuit of a lofty goal.
The other problem, and this is a big one, is there’s no finish line when it comes to health and wellness. Even if you reach your goal weight or run a marathon, you still have to keep eating well and exercising for the rest of your life if you want to be healthy. Big goals are wonderful, but it’s important that you take time to recognize your smaller achievements in pursuit of your bigger goal. Acknowledging your progress will give you a boost and encouragement to keep going.
Many people mistakenly think accountability is about punishment, but it’s really a way to mark progress, recognize important milestones, and stay on track. For example, if you are training for a marathon, celebrate when you first run more than ten miles. If you are trying to improve your nutrition or lose weight, give yourself a pat on the back for going a week without drinking any soda.
In addition to a reward for achieving a specific goal, try building in incentives along the way — both positive and negative, depending on what motivates you. You could require yourself to donate to an organization you hate if you neglect to exercise three times a week as planned (ouch, right?). A more positive motivation idea is to incorporate your incentive into the task. Why not walk the couple miles to your favorite coffee shop, with the latte at the end as your reward?
4. Accountability Increases When You Tell Friends and Family
Whatever your goals are, it’s beyond helpful to have face-to-face support from family and friends. One study showed people who posted progress photos and shared them with others lost almost a pound more per week compared to those who kept their progress to themselves.
So, don’t keep your goals a secret! Tell your coworkers you want to avoid the break room treats, and they’ll be there to remind you of your goal when donuts appear. Even better, enlist a friend to join you in achieving your goal. Solidarity benefits accountability.
You can join a team of people you actually know “in real life,” or you can join a virtual team of people from your city, country, or around the world. Seeing other people have struggles and successes, and sharing yours, will keep you motivated, inspired, and on track.
Review: How to Stay Accountable
Being accountable is about taking the time to set up systems that contribute to your success. Remember these four simple steps:
Write down your specific goals
Track your progress
Share your intentions with family and friends
Even integrating one of these strategies will help you stay the course, but working toward all four can truly empower you to achieve your goals.
8 ways to manage SAD now that daylight saving is ending
From spending time outdoors to safely socializing with others, here are eight ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder — and the pandemic — as we “fall back” into standard time.
8 tips for managing SAD
Now is the time to start thinking about how to get through the season. “Everyone should be thinking about these things. Even people who tend to fare well in winter might be stressed about politics or finances,” Weingarden said. People who don't normally experience winter depression could have a harder time this year. Here are some suggestions for treating seasonal affective disorder.
1. Bulk up your outdoor time in the fall.
“Build up some of that resilience. Get out for a walk or a run, or sit on your porch and have a socially distanced snack or cocktail hour,” Weingarden said.
2. Spend time in sunlight.
Take a walk on your lunch break. Hike, ski or snowshoe on the weekends. Or sit by the window and read.
3. Maintain your routines.
Sleep, wake and eat on a regular schedule. Exercise regularly.
4. If you drink alcohol, keep it moderate.
A lot of us have been prone to overindulging during the pandemic.
5. Talk to an expert about light therapy.
Exposure to bright light in the mornings may be as effective as talk therapy in treating SAD, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. A mental health professional can help you decide if light therapy is right for you. You can also learn more about light therapy from the Center for Environmental Therapeutics, suggests Weingarden.
6. Practice meditation or mindfulness.
“It doesn’t make the problems go away. It’s not going to bring sunshine. But it enables people to better regulate emotions,” Wright said.
7. Get professional help.
Seek help if your symptoms are interfering with your life. Most therapists now see patients virtually. If symptoms are severe, medications for seasonal affective disorder may be recommended.
8. Connect with other people.
“If you’re craving Zoom parties, schedule them. If you know you’ll easily slip into staying on the couch in your pajamas, make plans. If you schedule something with another person, you’ll feel more commitment,” Weingarden said. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do to stay well?”
What is Forever FIT? It's a fitness program that is unlike others - Fitness: Individualized, Together. Forever FIT members receive individualized attention while at the same time growing as a fitness community. When you join Forever FIT, you are joining a fitness family support system, and I am the team captain. Each clients' needs and goals are individually addressed. If I haven't seen you in class for a while, you better expect a text or call! But, the more you show up the more you will realize that this is EXACTLY what you needed! Give it a try. Your first class is on me!
In addition to absolutely loving fitness and health, I am also a marketing/ communications professional. I specialize in communications strategy, event planning, and creative concept/ design. Check out my website to learn more!
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