Position Yourself To Conquer Your New Year’s Resolutions

If you’ve resolved to exercise more, eat healthily, or lose weight in the New Year, approaching these common resolutions with a different mindset than usual may give you the edge to succeed, especially if you haven’t always managed to keep your New Year’s resolutions in the past. Rethinking the way that you frame the goal in your mind may help.

Here are three techniques which may work:

Consider your habits

If you’re hoping to adopt healthier eating habits, analyzing your attitude toward eating and your behavior around food may help you better control what you eat, because you may gain insights into what works and doesn’t work for you. Some research has shown that when people can determine which habits, behaviors, or emotions inspire them to snack, they’re better at avoiding the unhealthy foods that they would normally eat in those situations.

“It helps if you take time to identify the cues that trigger the unwanted habits that you wish to eliminate,” says study author Marieke Adriaanse, PhD, associate professor of social and health psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She notes that study participants were asked to reflect upon where they were and what they were doing when they ate unhealthy snacks to try to determine their reasons for eating.

Once you identify a trigger, it’s easier to create an if-then plan to help you crush your goals. For example: “If I’m feeling lonely and bored in the evening, then I’ll pick up the phone and call a friend.”

Be kind to yourself

Do you strive for perfection, then berate yourself when things don’t go according to plan? Changing your inner dialogue may help you to improve your chances of achieving your goal this year.

Some research has shown that self-critical perfectionists who used if-then strategies to help them honor their New Year’s resolutions made less progress on their goals than other people. When they didn’t succeed, they were left feeling lousy about themselves and their efforts.

Adjusting your inner dialogue to encompass more patience, self-kindness, understanding, and self-compassion may help you improve your chances to succeed with New Year’s resolutions, especially if you identify as a self-critical perfectionist. 

“This shift is essential and forms the basis for moving beyond the grip of the inner self-critic,” says study author Ted Powers, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “It can free people to make autonomous choices; to act, rather than procrastinate; and to take risks, rather than be immobilized by the fear of failure.”

Rethink your time frame

Immediate gratification may be getting in the way of your long-term goals. You may do a better job with your New Year’s resolution if you’re able to notice results right away.

A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people tend to choose New Year’s resolutions with delayed rewards (like losing weight, for instance), but they’re more likely to work toward achieving resolutions that offer immediate rewards. Other research has shown that having fun can be an immediate reward. People who chose enjoyable workouts completed a greater number of sets of weightlifting exercises than people who chose workouts based on the long-term benefits of the exercises.

You may be more successful with a long-term goal if you enjoy yourself throughout the process. Choose a workout class that you can’t wait to attend. Only listen to your favorite podcast while you’re on the treadmill. Meet a friend at a salad bar for lunch. Or, treat yourself to a splurge food in the produce aisle at the supermarket to make meal prep more exciting.

“Think about what types of activities you actually like the most, and try to do those,” says Kaitlin Woolley, PhD, assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business, who authored both studies. “Gritting our teeth and bearing it through hard, uninspiring workouts—or salads!—may work for a day or two, but to get the behavior to really stick, it needs to be something we find some degree of pleasure in.”

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