By: Dave Odegard 86
Well, it’s almost here. The New Year. And if you’re anything like nearly half of all Americans, you'll probably create a New Year’s resolution. That also means that you have a 36% chance of quitting your resolution within the first month. It’s cliché, but in fact MOST people don’t keep their resolutions. Researchers have found that only as close as 10% of people make the changes that we declare on New Year’s Eve. But we’re not saying that making a New Year’s resolution is useless — in fact, someone that makes one is ten times more likely to change or improve their life than someone who doesn’t. So we sat down and did a little research to find some solid tips from the field of psychology to help you make good on your resolution. We’re sure these five pieces of advice will help you make those changes in your life….cause they’re backed by science!
Set Specific Goals to Support Your Resolution
Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to “Get Healthier.” While that’s a great resolution and probably one shared by a lot of people (it’s the second most popular resolution), you should back it up by setting smaller specific goals like “going to the gym three times this week” or “find and try a health recipe for dinner tonight.” Why? Well, goals are actually quite motivating. Researchers have found that people who set goals are happier and more successful than those who don’t. When you meet a preset goal (even a small one), you release the neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain – activating the sense of pleasure and giving you the confidence to keep going and do more. So set goals!
Don’t Just Quit a Bad Habit, Replace It
Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are about dropping bad habits — stop smoking, layoff the fatty foods, quit drinking, etc. But scientists have discovered that simply trying to break a habit, especially one tied to an addiction, is incredibly hard. But they have found that if someone who rather sets out to replace that bad habit with another habit, they’re more successful than those who are just trying to drop it. So if you’re looking to quit something, replace it with another habit, better habit, like running.
Focus on Getting to March 7th
Here’s the thing about most New Year’s resolutions: they’re almost all habits. Essentially you’re proactively trying to adopt a new behavior to the point where you don’t have to really think about it anymore and just do it. So how long do you have to purposely keep reminding yourself to stick to and keep up with your resolution? Sixty-six days. That’s about the average time it took for subjects in a study to reach a point of adopting a new habit where they didn’t have to keep reminding themselves to do it. So aim to get to the date March 7, 2015, which is exactly sixty-six days from January 1. Oh, and don’t get too stressed if you fall behind once in a while, the same researchers found that a skipped day every now and then did not hurt the overall adoption of a habit.
Don’t Overdo it with Too Many Resolutions
There’s definitely something appealing about turning over a new leaf. Everyone wishes they could change something….or even a few things. One of the reasons that some experts think that a lot of people fail at keeping up their New Year’s resolutions is they resolve to change too much. “This year, I’m going to get in shape, get out of debt, get a new job, and find true love.” Studies have shown that when subjects were given too much to focus on, they more easily gave into temptation. So if you’re trying to hit they gym, watch your spending, job hunt, and cruise the dating scene — you’ll probably end up falling behind and dropping one if not all of your resolutions. That’s why it’s best to have as few New Year’s resolutions as possible.
Now matter what your resolution is, you won’t be able to accomplish it on your own. It’s a matter of fact that people who are trying to change their behaviors or overcome challenges do best when they have support from those around them. If you’re trying to quit smoking (and adopt another habit), for example, telling your friends and family will create a support network that will ask about your progress and encourage you as you go. You could use online tools to help, sites like Fitocracy and reddit’s Fittit are communities filled with people connecting over fitness and sharing accomplishments and encouragement.
[All pics via Flickr. Top - Adam Sofen. Goals - John O'Nolan. Replace Bad Habit - Jonf728 + Chris Hunkeler. March 7 - rick. Overdo it - Casey Serin. Support - Angie Garrett]