It’s that time of year when we think about changes we want to make in our lives.

For many people, those resolutions include a vow to eat more healthfully, exercise or lose weight. Before you start thinking about how to make your change, you have to figure out what changes you want to make. Be realistic about changes you will be able to make.

People who set a specific goal, such as “I will walk 30 minutes most days,” have a much better chance at being successful than people who set a more general goal, such as “I’m going to get in shape.” People who make one or two changes at a time are also more likely to be successful than those who try to change everything all at once. Making changes in your eating can be scary because of the many fad diets you see featured in infomercials. Stay focused, and do what works for your body. There is no one-way-fits- all approach!

Here are some suggestions for habits that can make a positive impact on your health:

• Eat breakfast.

• Drink three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk every day.

• Decrease sodium to no more than 1,600 milligrams per day.

• Decrease fat to no more than 20% of your total calories (around 45 grams, depending on your caloric needs.)

• Drink six to eight cups of water per day.

• Eliminate or decrease soda.

New Year’s resolutions can be beneficial because the name itself sets a date for you to make a change. It is good to have a date in mind for changing a habit because that commitment actually helps you follow through with your change.

Some say it takes at least 21 days to change a habit. Things that will help you stay on target with making positive changes in your life include writing down your goal and listing reasons why you want to meet your goal. Encouragement from others also helps us reach our goals. Tell relatives and close friends about your goals so they can offer encouragement.

It may take as little as 21 days to establish a new habit, but it can take much longer to assure that you will sustain that new habit. Prepare yourself now for that time in late January or mid-February when your motivation wanes. Things you can do when that happens include having a reward in mind for establishing your goal. Knowing there is a reward in sight can get you through rough times. Think about how it will be when you establish your goal. If your goal is walking 30 minutes per day, think about how much more energy you will have and how much better you will consistently feel because you have been active.

There are very few people who can say making these types of changes is easy. One very important thing to remember is that if the day comes when you have been unable to sustain your new habit, don’t count it as a failure. Just know some days are better than others, and vow to re-establish your desired habit.

For more information, call your local county Extension office at 453-6803.

• Jennifer Russell is the county coordinator and a child and family development Extension agent for the Washington County MSU Extension Service Office in Greenville. You may contact her at 662-334-2669 or jtb20@msstate.edu.

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