New Year’s Resolutions
Why they fail and 7 things you can do about it
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Health & Wellness Home
Resetting the calendar to 1/1 evokes thoughts of resetting other things in life—a do-over to resolve bad habits of the year before. According to Psychology Today, 50 percent of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions, most of which won’t last past the first two weeks of the year. But for those who view the turning of the calendar page as a fresh start on a new goal (or keeping a promise on an old one), there is hope for success if you follow a few basic tips.
First, let’s look at why people make resolutions and why they usually fail:
Believe in yourself. Making a resolution is a way to motivate oneself. Some common ones include weight loss, better money management and quitting smoking, all very worthwhile endeavors. But are you ready to make these changes? Have you envisioned yourself as the person who makes a budget and keeps track of spending, makes healthy food choices putting in consistent effort to avoid temptation, or stays in the office while your friends go out to the smoking area? Often a resolution doesn’t match up to the inner vision we have of ourselves. Low self-esteem is also a factor. Envisioning the new you and believing you can do it has to change first before the action of the resolution can happen.
Replace the behavior, don’t change it. Through the use of MRIs, scientists have discovered that habitual behavior creates neural pathway patterns. Telling yourself to stop doing an action is difficult because essentially you’ve wired your brain to do that action. However, you can train your brain to replace that behavior with another action. For example, if craving to smoke is answered by nicotine gum instead of a cigarette, then later, the craving for nicotine gum can be answered by regular gum.
Making a change won’t solve every problem you have. Another reason resolutions fail is because people think if they change one thing, their whole life will get better. Perhaps you’re considering losing weight. You know it will improve your health, but you also might think you will be more attractive to women or men, people will like you more, you’ll get promoted at work and life will be grand. That’s a lot of pressure, and if those things don’t happen right away, you may be tempted to give up and fall back into bad habits.
Here are 7 tips to make a resolution and stick to it:
- Focus on one specific goal at a time. Being better with money is too vague. Creating a budget to reduce monthly spending by $200 is specific.
- Take small steps and celebrate milestones. If you want to lose 40 pounds, set a goal to lose 10 pounds in the first 90 days, then celebrate your success and reset your goal to continue on.
- Share your goals with family or friends and ask for their support. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword. You don’t need someone to say “hey, you shouldn’t be eating that” when you are trying to diet, so you may have to set a few ground rule when asking for support.
- Make goal-setting part of your year, not just a New Year’s event. If you’ve fallen into to the New Year’s trap of resolution-backsliding-failure, take the pressure off by setting small goals throughout the year. It is really fulfilling to rack up accomplishments!
- Focus on new behaviors, not denial. Replace those cravings and bad habits with new actions rather than telling yourself “no.” You will have greater success.
- If you fall off the horse, get back on and ask yourself, “What is one thing I could do today towards my goal?”
- Don’t dwell on mistakes of the past or your idealistic future. Be aware of yourself and the positive effort you are making right now, today.
By understanding why we fail and arming yourself with the tools to succeed, you can make resolutions throughout the year and celebrate everything you have accomplished, or forgive yourself, reset goals and start fresh.
May your New Year be filled with joy and love for yourself and others.