Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Succeed with your New Year's Resolution

Oh, that head-hanging, depressing feeling of failure! Why do so many of us fail - over 88% of us do according to a 2007 survey by psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertsfordshire. But, not this year! This year is your year for success – and, here’s how.


Resist that urge to make a list of resolutions for 2014 - just pick one. When you ask your brain to focus on too many things it loses willpower. Jonah Lehrer in How We Decide (Houghton Mifflin, 2009) describes an experiment with several dozen undergraduates psychology students in which one group was given a two-digit number to remember, and the second group a seven-digit number. Then they were presented with the choice of a bowl of fruit or a piece of chocolate cake. The students with seven digits to remember were almost twice as likely to choose the chocolate cake than those with only two digits to remember. When the prefrontal cortex in the brain is required to remember more numbers it has less energy to focus on willpower, making it harder to resist the decadent dessert. By focusing on just one resolution your brain can maximize its willpower and thus give you more likelihood of success in your resolution.

Be realistic with your resolution. Setting a large, unattainable resolution is not only a recipe for failure, but can leave you feeling beaten and unconfident. By choosing a habit changing resolution, something you could do in less than 2 minutes a day, you’ll enjoy feelings of triumph and satisfaction. For example, instead of pledging to lose weight, resolve to replace your morning scone with an apple, or take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.  

Decided on a resolution? Great! Now, let’s get started. First, write it down and tape it on the fridge or tell a friend. Being accountable to your resolution helps you feel motivated to succeed.

You can do it! And, perhaps a little external motivation will help. Try setting weekly goals to allow for frequent chances to give yourself a pat-on-the-back. Or,  try rewards. For example, motivate yourself with the reward of a piece of decadent chocolate cake if you complete a week of healthy eating. Or, maybe you’ll find motivation in a new pair of yoga pants once you complete your resolution to be more active. Whatever it is, find something that’ll keep you motivated.

Believe you can do it! By setting just one small, realistic resolution to live healthier and happier, you can roll into next month holding your head high and enjoy feeling self-confidence and accomplishment. 

My Confession - I've stopped making resolutions. Instead, whenever I go back into a "routine", no matter what time of year, I take it as an opportunity to try to retune my healthy ways. And, when I find inspiration in life to be healthier (such as an upcoming trip to the beach, or feeling to tired to play with the kids) I use it to drive me back onto the path of health. Best of luck to all of you striving to be healthier - health is a very rewarding path to take. 

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