Everybody talks about them this time of year, but do New Year's resolutions actually work?
You have a plan.
Want to lose weight? Be specific about what you’ll do to accomplish that goal. "'Lose 10 pounds' sounds specific, but it's less likely to work than behavioral goals like 'This week I'll try to go to the gym three times, take the stairs at work at least twice, and bring a healthy lunch every day," says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. Planning your week out like this also allows you to celebrate smaller victories (“Feeling pumped after my kickboxing class tonight!”) rather than waiting to see a certain number on the scale.
You write them down.
“People who put their goals on paper,” research from Dominican University of California shows, “are significantly more likely to achieve them than are those who merely make mental vows.” Don’t just stuff the page in a drawer, either — post it on your fridge or a wall you look at often. Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., says that your “will matters most the moment you make a resolution — and you'll want to be able to recapture the intensity of that moment again and again."
You accept help.
Whether you’re resolving to get more sleep, eat more veggies or start lifting weights, accepting some help along the way may give you a better chance of establishing habits. This might mean making a pact with a friend, downloading an app to track your activity, or letting wellness professionals guide you. Telling someone else about your resolutions makes it harder to abandon them, too.
You take on too many resolutions at once.
You want to get a six-pack, learn a new language and empty out the basement by February? Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Narrow in on what you really want and need, and start step by step from there.
You make all-or-nothing resolutions
“I’m giving up all desserts” or “I’ll go to the gym every day” are pretty unrealistic goals for most of us. Instead of making absolute affirmations, opt for more manageable alternatives like “I’ll choose one or two nights a month to indulge my sweet tooth,” and “I’ll go to the gym four days a week or jog outside if I can’t go.”
You think January is the only time to make positive life changes.
Yes, everyone talks about New Year’s resolutions, but you can have a fresh start every morning. Maybe your January unexpectedly involves a job transition, a family emergency, an injury or another barrier that makes it seemingly impossible to stick to what you said you would in December. Life happens — recommit as soon as you can and remember the “Yes” steps above.
For more inspiration, check out these local Y stories on New Year’s resolutions, and share your own resolutions with us in the comments or on social media!