The start of a new year feels like the perfect time to turn a new page, so you decide that starting from January 1st, you will quit smoking, lose weight, get in shape, and find healthier ways to cope with stress. This is just the first step to a better you. But wait! Don't these resolutions sound familiar? Maybe because they're the same ones you made the year before and the one before that…
Resolutions are much easier to make than to keep, with many of us losing motivation by the end of March. However, this age-old holiday custom is not without its benefits. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that people who make New Year's resolutions are ten times more likely to change their behavior than those who don't.
While many people tend to bite off more than they can chew, which might explain why 63% of people keep their resolutions for the first two months, but only 8% manage to stay motivated until the end of the year, a temporal landmark such as New Year's Eve is a great opportunity to overcome struggles with willpower.
So what can you do to make this year's resolutions stick? Here are our tips.
Make a Plan and Be Realistic
Although you most certainly can set ambitious goals for yourself, you have to be realistic. But the problem with most New Year's resolutions is not that they're unrealistic. It's that the list is too long and too vague. It's more common for people to include new habits such as exercising more rather than breaking old ones such as quitting smoking. The most common resolutions are health-related, like developing better eating habits and getting into shape.
But becoming healthier, happier, or more productive doesn't sound very specific, so it's hard to measure your progress and know whether or not you're making progress. A better strategy is to set a goal such as "exercise for one hour three times per week" or "learn how to prepare one new healthy recipe per week."
This allows you to plan how you're going to integrate these new habits into your life and how to handle obstacles. For example, let's say one of your New Year's resolutions is to quit smoking. You've had this resolution for the past five years, and it never seems to stick.
You can analyze your past experiences to figure out your obstacles and how you could do things differently this year. Maybe you tried to quit cold-turkey. In that case, gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke might give better results. Perhaps you'll have an easier time handling cravings with nicotine replacement therapy and counseling. If you were relying on smoking to help you cope with stress, you could think of healthier alternatives such as mediation or natural products like Organic CBD Nugs.
Stick to One Goal at a Time
As we mentioned before, one of the problems with New Year's resolutions is that people tend to write long lists of positive changes that are very difficult to implement. It takes a while to get used to a new habit, so it's best to focus on one goal at a time. Even if you don't manage to complete your entire list, it's still better to accomplish only two or three objectives and to leave the rest or next year rather than recycling the same long list year after year.
Start with smaller goals that will boost your confidence and help you stay motivated. Once you're ready to tackle bigger goals, break them down into several stages. Keep in mind that becoming comfortable with a new habit takes and an average of 66 days, but this can vary between 18 to 254 days. Give yourself time, and you'll have a much better chance of long-term success.
Remind Yourself Why You Want to Change
You probably have some reasons why you chose your goals for the next year. As you try to achieve them and face challenges, you'll tend to forget, so it's better to write them down from the beginning. For example, you've decided to follow a healthier diet. In the beginning, you'll feel really motivated, but then you'll start to miss junk food, or some nights you'll find it difficult to summon the energy to cook yourself a healthy meal instead of ordering pizza.
Since you'll be focusing on one goal at a time, make a list of reasons why you want to make this change in your life and put it somewhere visible like on your fridge.
Track Your Progress and Reward Yourself
We've already mentioned that you should choose measurable goals. This allows you to track your progress, which helps you stay motivated. For example, let's say you want to lose weight. That's too vague. Instead, you could say that you want to lose 40 pounds in one year, which is quite achievable. You might even finish ahead of schedule. Once you start, don't think about the 40 pounds, just the first 5. Keep a diary of your exercise plan and meals.
Reward yourself not just for losing weight but also for sticking to your plan. Your rewards shouldn't go against your goal. This means you can't reward yourself with a burger or a bowl of ice cream. You can, however, reward yourself by going to see a movie, having a spa day at home, or even bragging a little to your friends. In the beginning, you'll need to reward yourself more often. Some people like to write encouraging notes for themselves at the end of every day. As you get more comfortable with these changes, you can give yourself bigger rewards every week and then every month. A very affordable and effective reward is to visualize yourself after you've achieved your goal. Think of how it will change your life for the better and how proud of yourself you will feel.
Change Is a Process So Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself
Some of the habits you're trying to change took years to develop. You can't realistically ask yourself to become a different person from one day to the other. You need to be patient with yourself and come to terms with the idea that change is a process. Even if you have a set-back or two, it doesn't mean you failed. You can learn, adapt, and continue on your journey.
A harsh inner-dialogue will only make you feel less confident and less motivated. Some days will be tougher than others, but that's not a sign of some sort of personal shortcoming. It's a natural part of the process.