Happy New Year! If you’re like many Americans, you’ll resolve to lose weight, hit the gym every day, drink less alcohol or kick your cigarette habit. Unfortunately, few New Year’s resolutions last past January. But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope and enter the New Year without a resolution.
A resolution often involves forming a new habit. It’s difficult to create new habits, which is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Experts say it often takes about six months to form a habit. After the first six months, the new behavior — whether it be going for a walk each day or drinking more water — will be easier to do.
However, getting through the first six months is challenging. It’s common to fall off the wagon, get disappointed and give up. With some careful planning, realistic goals and determination, you can stick with your resolution throughout the whole year.
10 Tricks to Make Resolutions Stick
Follow these 10 tips to turn your resolutions into lasting habits:
1. Be realistic. Create a plan that works for your lifestyle. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to work out at 5 a.m., instead plan to exercise after work.
2. Think baby steps. Do not go cold turkey. If you’re trying to cut out caffeine, start by first switching from caffeinated coffee to half caff. Changes are sometimes easier to make if you modify behavior gradually instead of going all or nothing.
3. Track your progress. Write your plan down and post it in a visible place, like on the fridge or your desk. As you meet small goals, check off a box. Seeing what you have already accomplished can encourage you to keep going.
4. Make one change at a time. If you want to revamp your diet, start slowly. Do not eliminate soda, fried foods and sweets from your diet in one fell swoop. Changes are usually easier to make if they’re small. Cut down on the soft drinks first and once you’re used to that, try to eliminate French fries.
5. Focus on the process. Saying you want to lose 50 pounds is a vague goal. How are you going to get there? Focus on the process of getting to your goal instead of on the end result. Say you will start keeping portion sizes in check and counting calories.
6. Set up an incentive program. Once you have started modifying your behavior and habits, reward yourself for your success. For every two weeks you go without a cigarette, treat yourself to a movie or a massage.
7. Be flexible. Some days are harder than others. If you can’t make your afternoon cycling class because you have a dentist appointment, make adjustments. Go on a walk first thing in the morning or during your lunch break.
8. Seek support. Share your goals with your loved ones so they can cheer you on. Or find a friend with the same goal as you. Then you can share tips and support one another throughout the process.
9. Have a plan for obstacles. You may have the best intention of avoiding the snacks offered at your morning meeting, but if you’re hungry, you won’t be able to turn them down. To resist temptation, make sure you eat breakfast and bring an apple or other nutritious snack with you so you have something to munch on.
10. Anticipate setbacks. Falling off the wagon now and again is normal. Know that minor slip ups happen and it’s not a reason to give up. Remember how far you’ve come and don’t dwell on the setback.
Have you ever made a successful New Year’s Resolution? How did you do it?