New Year’s resolutions are as easy to break as they are to make, but experts say keeping it simple helps people hold onto those promises of self-improvement.
From losing weight and eating better to fighting less and giving more, resolutions run the gamut, but usually have one thing in common — they’re hard to keep. Only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick to them, according to research from the University of Scranton.
1. Realize that New Year’s day is just another day and that making resolutions on this day is no different from making a resolution on any other day. While it’s a convenient time because it’s a new year and therefore feels like a new beginning, placing too much emphasis on it being a brand new start of the day your whole life is going to change is unrealistic. Think of the occasion more as a catalyst for change and a jumping-off point.2. Pinpoint your most realistic resolutions. Review the different areas in your life and think about what is working as well as what isn’t. Instead of picking the same old resolutions that you can never seem to keep, like losing weight, giving up smoking or winning an award, choose an area that you know needs improvement rather than a radical change. Think long term and make sure it’s something you can realistically see happening. And reduce the amount of resolutions you make – hone down that list of 10 resolutions to just one or two, or be prepared to approach your resolutions one after another rather than all at once.
- For instance, perhaps you don’t see enough of your friends or you never ring your Mom. Working on these seemingly simple things may be more rewarding in the long run.
- Longer term goals such as learning a new language or controlling your temper are also fine but they must be broken down into chunks so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations and then give up too easily.
4. Focus on one change at a time. Rather than trying to have several large changes underway at once, such as trying to lose weight, quit smoking, and increase your exercise regime, break the changes down into smaller lots and focus on one single resolution at a time. Your focus and energies won’t be spread too thinly this way and you can give the single resolution all of your attention.
- Break down each change into smaller steps and make the first step incredibly easy. For example, if you want to start flossing, the first step can be to locate the floss in the supermarket.
- Find routine trigger points during your day for implementing your resolution. For example, when you’re eating a meal, brushing your teeth, putting out the pets, etc. Choose times that provide natural triggers for doing whatever it is your resolution is about an tack the resolution behavior onto the existing habit.
6. Make the change a gradual one. A resolution is unlikely to be enduring if you implement it in its totality the first day. Giving up your favorite daily treats cold turkey will probably cause you to think about them endlessly and finally give in to resuming eating them. Instead, slowly wean yourself off the treats by eating less of them each week, until you are no longer including them in your daily eating regime.
- Give yourself plenty of time to make the change. At least 21 days of pursuing a new habit are needed to break the old habit, and a good period of time to set a new resolution in place is around two months, after which time it should feel much easier to meet your resolution.
- Consider joining an online support group for specific resolutions such as losing weight, giving up chocolate, or training for the next marathon. Having people you can talk to at any time of day or night can be an enormous source of instant support, especially if the people are going through the same experiences and concerns as you. In turn, be sure to help boost other people’s resolutions!
9. Build on your resolutions. When you’re doing well at keeping your resolution, you may discover that you are feeling better about other areas of your life too. Going to the gym may lead you to cut out smoking too. Similarly, if you have given up something as part of your resolution, try to find a pleasant and diversionary substitute to keep your mind occupied. Quitting smoking may encourage you to exercise more.
10. Celebrate. Remember to celebrate your successes, but make sure the way you celebrate doesn’t go against your resolution. If you cut down on drinking alcohol, clearly it’s best not to reward yourself with a glass of wine. Instead, treat yourself to those shoes you’ve had your eye on, or tickets to a play you’ve been dying to see. You deserve it!
- Keep going. Why stop now when you’ve done this well? Extend the timeline of your resolution and work it into your everyday routine. By next year, you’ll be more than ready to face your next challenge.