The New Year is upon us. It is the time of year when the wellness center is full, fruits and vegetables are flying off the shelves at the grocery store, and many of us are trying to get eight hours of sleep each night.
Jump to February. All too often, we begin playing devil’s advocate to our own good intentions. Why go to the wellness center when you can sleep in? After all, one of your New Year’s resolutions was to get eight hours of sleep. Why buy fruits and vegetables? They are too expensive, and you have been working out! All that exercise makes up for the junk food in your diet.
So how can we resist the short-term satisfaction of defying our resolutions and keep moving towards our goals? Below are some tips you can use to keep your New Year’s Resolutions going strong through the whole year.
1. Work Out the Willpower “Muscle”: According to Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., chief medical officer at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center, willpower is like a muscle. That means the more we use it, the stronger it gets. However, just like a muscle, it is important to be patient with your progress. Setting goals that are too hard can cause your willpower and resolve to collapse (like an overworked hamstring).
2. Make One Change at a Time: A single resolution can require many behavior changes. For example, the goal to lose weight takes far more than just a decision to eat less. You need to change shopping and cooking habits, start or improve upon an exercise routine and more. By thinking through the steps needed to achieve your goal, you can avoid overwhelming your willpower, thus increasing your success rate.
3. Apply Behavioral Goals: Behavioral goals help to provide specificity and direction to your long-term goal. These behavioral goals can ultimately become habits that you apply on a daily basis, which will lead to a successful New Year’s resolution! For example, rather than just saying “I am going to lose two pounds this week, you would say “I am going to walk the dog three times, take the stairs four times at work and go to the gym twice this week.” This allows for a sense of gratification when you accomplish each behavioral goal. This in turn can boost enthusiasm and motivation toward your long-term goal.
4. Avoid Absolute Resolutions: An all or nothing mentality is typically ineffective when setting New Year’s Resolutions. Absolutes such as “I am never eating fast food” or “I am giving up all sweets” can cause you to try to get around your own overly strict rules. You can even lessen the guilt of breaking these rules by saying that they were unattainable in the first place. Instead, coming up with limited restrictions like “I will only eat fast food twice a month” can allow for lapses in your willpower while at the same time keeping your resolution intact.
5. Self-Affirmations: Pat yourself on the back as you work toward your resolution! When making a behavioral or lifestyle change, there will more than likely be bumps in the road. That is okay! Do not beat yourself up over these roadblocks. Remember that you have a lot to be proud of. Self-affirmations can help to remind you how much willpower you really have.
Mahoney, S. (2013, December 30). 10 Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/10-ways-to-make-your-new-years-resolutions-stick
WebMD feature from “Good Housekeeping” Magazine
[TEDxTalks]. (2012, Dec. 5). Forget big change, start with a tiny habit: BJ Fogg at TEDxFremont. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdKUJxjn-R8