I suppose most of us try to start the New Year with a clean slate, promising to kick a bad  habit or begin a new, healthy one.  In order to really do this well, I suggest that you take stock of what you’ve accomplished during 2011 first.  You’ve probably done better than you’re giving yourself credit for, and it’s appropriate to let yourself see that!

There are several stages involved in making change:  precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination/adoption.  Those in precontemplation are thinking that they should make a change but don’t have any particular plans to do so–they often feel that the risks outweigh the benefit.  Those in contemplation are thinking of making a change but don’t know how–they need more information in order to get started.  Those in preparation definitely plan to change and see that the benefit of change outweighs the issues involved in getting there.  There may not be a full plan set out yet, however.  Those in the action phase are already making some changes and looking to make them more permanent.  Those in the maintenance phase have continued their changes for at least 6 months and their “relapse” rate is low but still possible.  Those in termination/adoption phase have continued the new behaviors for at least 2 years; these new actions are part of their lives.  (A really good article describing these phases in detail can be found here).

So how do you decide where you are in terms of your health goals and accomplishments for 2011?  If you even thought about adding more movement into your life and showed up for a gym class even once, give yourself credit as planning.  If you talked with others about how to make the time, or if you sought out information, give yourself credit for preparation.  If you managed to stick to a healthier eating plan for even a short period of time, give yourself credit for it!  Even if you started something good for yourself but fell back into old habits, give yourself credit for what you did accomplish, because it will make the next time easier.

For a nice checklist to help you with this exercise, go here.  It’s a pdf from experiencelife.com, and is a bit more detailed than that found in the hardcopy magazine of the same name.  If you print it out and fill it in, you’ll probably be surprised at how much you actually DID accomplish this past year….and you’ll likely find it easier to plan ahead for 2012.

I hope you take the time to take stock of your current health status and all that you’ve managed to do for yourself this past year.  Then take a moment to write down what you want to do in 2012; if you write it, there’s a better chance that it will happen.  Maybe it’ll be big, like finally getting that colonoscopy done.  Maybe it’ll be small, like taking a healthy lunch with you to work at least once a month.  Whatever it is, even a small step is a good change.  Best of luck!