New Year’s Resolutions That Work
Before we get into the nitty-gritty on how to start the New Year off fresh, watch my 6 Things to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle (Video)
1) Work Out your Willpower- Dr. Joseph Shrand, M.D., of the Psychiatry Department at Harvard Medical School, explains it best when he notes, in a WebMD feature for Good Housekeeping magazine, that “self-restraint is a rational desire” that is housed in the frontal portion of our brain. Conversely, our pleasure center is situated in that primal back region of our brain—the home of our instincts. Consequently, when these two do battle our more recently evolved and vulnerable frontal brain desires often lose.Willpower, according to Dr. Marvin D. Seppala M.D. and chief medical officer of the famous addiction center called Hazeldon, is “a muscle”. If you don’t use it then, you lose it. Studies at the University at Albany-State University of New York suggest that you squeeze a grip strengthener until it becomes uncomfortable, then hold it as long as you can, at least twice a day. Just keep in mind that like with any muscle, your willpower can be overworked and collapse on you.
2) Take things one step at a time- The American Psychological Association, in their Psychology Help Center, notes that with limited willpower multiple resolutions just don’t work. This is especially true for resolutions that require many behavioral changes (like a weight loss plan). Their experts suggest that you “don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life.” Instead, start small. If you wish to exercise more frequently they write “schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven.” This avoids a sense of being overwhelmed, or that you are punishing yourself for past behaviors.
3) Set a Schedule- According to Dr. John M. Grohol Psy.D. CEO and Founder of PsychCentral, “if you set no schedule for yourself, or—as most people do—set an unrealistic schedule, you are setting yourself up for failure.” Don’t assume you can lose a few pounds in a few days—try a few months. If your goal has a daily component he writes “set specific times of the day or specific days of the week,” you can then keep a progress journal to see how well you’re sticking to your new plan.
4) Outsmart Yourself- Resolutions that go “all the way” are a recipe for disaster. Resolutions like ‘I’ll never eat sweets again’ are just daring you to circumvent your overly strict rationale. Dr. Connie Stapleton, Ph.D. in psychology with a private practice in Augusta Georgia suggests drafting limits (not bans) like “I’ll only have sweets when I’m in a fancy restaurant.
5) Make Technology your Ally- We live in the age of the smartphone, so it’s time to take advantage! There are a myriad of top apps that will hound you into staying focused and committed. My personal fave is StickK which allow you to “set the stakes” that will keep you motivated (money is only one option, and hardly necessary!)
6) Keep a Progress Journal- This tip was mentioned briefly in “set a schedule” but you do not have to keep track of just your progress. Before beginning, psychologists at West Virginia University suggest on their Health Center page that you should “write out the benefits and costs of the behavior you want to change.” I suggest that you write these out in a list form—pros on one side, cons on the other—at the beginning of your journal. This way, each day you go to record your progress you have a little reminder of why you’re working so hard in the first place.
Maintaining your New Year’s goals are always tough, but they’re anything but impossible. Apply my tips to this year’s batch and you’ll be crossing your personal finish lines in no time!