Five tips to keeping New Year's resolutions
A new year brings hope for a fresh start in life, and making a resolution adds optimism to the season. Although about 40% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, the vast majority of people abandon them by February. Here are five evidence-based ways to make your resolution stick.
Set a realistic, specific, 30-day goal. Many New Year’s resolutions fail because people bite off more than they can chew. Don’t take on too much, too fast: instead, break your big goals down into small ones, and then see if you can tackle one small, realistic change for 30 days. To be achievable, goals need to be specific (increase my physical activity from 15 minutes three times a week to 20 minutes three times a week) instead of vague (exercise more). The more specific and realistic your goal is, the more likely you’ll be to accomplish it.
Write it down. Evidence shows that we’re more likely to complete a goal if we write it down. Put your goal where you can see it every day: on your mirror, at your desk or on a sticky note on your computer. You can keep a journal page of your successes and write encouraging messages to yourself, too.
Profess and believe that you can achieve it. Thinking influences how we feel and behave. If your attitude about your goal is positive, you have much higher odds of accomplishing it. Examine how you’ve written out your goal, and rewrite it if any of the words seem negative. When negative thoughts crop up (“I can’t do another sit-up”), rewrite them to be positive (“I’m trying my hardest now and that feels good”). Take a minute each day to visualize yourself with your goal accomplished, basking in success.
Get an accountability/support partner. Ask a friend or family member to be your support person. Set up a system of texts, phone calls or emails on a regular basis in which you can report your progress and they can offer encouragement. An online shared document in which you log your goal activity can be checked by your partner remotely.
Put your goal into practice one day at a time. Remember, you can always reset if you fall behind or forget for a day. Any day can be Jan. 1. Just start over, be kind to yourself and be patient. It takes 30 to 60 days to make a new habit stick or to break an old one. Once you’ve acquired that new habit, you may want to set a new goal and keep growing all year long. You can do it.
Bernadette Melnyk is vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University.