Studies show nearly half of all patients don’t follow their doctor’s advice, so they fall short of their health goals.
“Almost everyone wants to feel better and do what they set out to,” says William McCann, director of behavioral science education at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. “But translating knowledge into action requires strategy.”
Try these strategies to reach your goals for better health.
Set SMART goals. That is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. For example, instead of, “I’m going to exercise more often,” decide that “I’m going to take a walk (specific) for 15 minutes (measurable, attainable), on Monday, Wednesday and Friday after dinner for the next month (time-bound), because this will increase my energy and improve my joint health (relevant).” Psychologist Martin Ford, PhD, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., says, “SMART allows you to envision every step of a goal, from start to finish.” Learn more about setting SMART goals in our new digital Better Living Toolkit!
Think positive. In a trio of studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine, individuals with health conditions who actively tried to stay positive were more likely to achieve their goals – sticking to their medication and increasing their activity – than those who didn’t aim to be positive. “It helps you enjoy your goals rather than dreading them, and makes you more resilient in the face of adversity,” says McCann.
Picture your pitfalls. Another research-backed strategy is to envision obstacles and come up with solutions for how you’ll handle them. “Create an ‘if … then’ plan,” Ford says; for example, if I am at a restaurant, then I will order water as my drink. “When you remove the element of surprise, you’re able to make choices that support your health goals,” he says.
Author: Camille Noe Pagán for the Arthritis Foundation