Most people make at least one New Year’s resolutions, but few people stick with them past January. In fact, did you realize that all gym owners know this? That’s why they almost always ask for a year’s commitment: because they know most people quit going after a couple weeks. With proper planning, this doesn’t have to be you! Read our tips for making, and keeping, sustainable New Year’s resolutions.
Break it into attainable goals
It’s great to think big when it comes to resolutions, but committing to do something like losing 100 pounds requires time, patience and lots of hard work. It can be really easy to get discouraged and give up in the first few weeks. The best way to succeed is to break a big resolution into small, attainable goals.
For example, instead of just saying you want to lose 100 pounds, break it into monthly and weekly goals. If you want to lose 100 pounds, commit to losing 2 pounds a week. That’s attainable and won’t leave you feeling deprived and hungry. Plus, the satisfaction you feel having attained your goal each week will give you a self esteem boost that will help you stay on track. Early failure is one of the biggest things that keeps people from keeping New Year’s resolutions.
Two pounds per week may not sound like much, and it might be tempting to aim for something like five pounds per week. But if you lose two pounds per week, you will have achieved your goal of losing 100 pounds before New Year’s Eve 2021. And think how fantastic you will feel a year from now!
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There is strong scientific evidence to support the idea that visualizing success helps you manifest it. This is because we stimulate the same brain regions when we visualize an action and when we actually perform that same action. Elite athletes use this technique to their advantage to enhance their performance.
If you are trying to lose weight, take some time every day to close your eyes and imagine how good you will feel when you attain your goal. Imagine looking at yourself in the mirror with a new, svelte shape. Think how good it feels to be lighter, to be able to wear attractive clothes and feel really good about yourself.
If you are trying to cut back drinking, imagine going to a party and just drinking seltzer water or a mocktail. Think how good it will feel to not have a hangover the next day.
It’s really important to reward yourself for achieving your small, attainable goals. If you lose two pounds per week, treat yourself with something special. It might be indulging in self care like taking a bubble bath or getting a massage. It could also be as simple as setting aside some time to do something you really enjoy. Especially in the beginning, make your rewards something special. That will give you the motivation to keep going the first few weeks, which can be the hardest.
After successfully working towards your goal for a month or so, you will start to create new habits. This will make it easier to keep your New Year’s resolution. And you will feel so good about yourself that you will naturally want to keep with your new, healthier/more positive lifestyle.
Make a plan for tricky situations
There are some situations where it can be really difficult to keep your New Year’s resolution. If you are trying to cut back/quit drinking, parties can be especially challenging. If you are trying to quit gossiping, being around certain friends that indulge in this behavior can prompt you to want to gossip with them. If you are trying to quit smoking, being around friends or colleagues that smoke can trigger you wanting to have a cigarette “just this once.”
Ask yourself, “Is there a way to avoid the situation altogether?” If not, plan how to navigate it. For example, if you have to go to a business dinner, look at the menu in advance and figure out what you are going to order. Plan what you are going to eat and drink. It’s a lot easier to make a healthy choice when you are by yourself and focused on your goal. If you sit down, have a drink and then look at the menu with your friends, it can be easy to make a choice that doesn’t resonate with your long term goals.
After you make your plan, visualize yourself following through with your plan. In the restaurant example above, imagine yourself ordering your chosen menu item and enjoying the good feeling you will have from this self-restraint.
Find things to add for everything you take away
It is a lot easier to add something new to your life than to take something away- especially something that served you in some way. People don’t have bad habits for a reason. They have them because they provide some sort of comfort or relief. So sit down and figure out exactly why you partake in whatever habit you may have. Many people over indulge out of boredom or loneliness. Some people engage in negative self talk out of fear of failure. Spending too much time alone (as many of us have during the pandemic) can make self talk even worse.
Once you figure out why you engage in behavior that is not constructive to your overall well being, find healthier things to substitute for what you are trying to give up or moderate. Perhaps you over eat because you are sad? Adding exercise to your day stimulates the release of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. These chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood. So if you focus on adding something that makes you happy, that will help you naturally cut back on eating.
Understand how habits are created
Understanding how habits are formed gives you proven, scientific methods to help you keep your New Year’s resolution. For example, habits are created via a three step process called a habit loop. First, there is a trigger that tells your brain to engage in a particular behavior. Understanding your triggers for things like smoking, drinking or over eating can help you avoid those triggers. And if you can’t avoid them, just recognizing a trigger for what it is can help activate your prefrontal cortex. This is the part of your brain that is responsible for making good decisions. It’s a completely different part of your brain than the basal ganglia, which is responsible for habitual behavior.
Create a support system
It’s really difficult to change behavior on your own. Everyone needs a little help and support- the more the better!
Find a support buddy
Having a friend that is trying to keep the same New Year’s resolution as you can be a big help. You can engage in positive behavior together, like going to the gym or sharing healthy recipes. You can also call or message them if you are feeling unmotivated or thinking of giving up. Friends always make things better!
Tell others your goals
Telling everyone you know about your New Year’s resolutions can help you keep them. For example, if you are trying to save money, tell people this. If they are good friends, they will help you by not inviting you to expensive dinners or shopping sprees. They can also help you get back on track if they see you slip.
Another benefit of telling people your goals is that it will make you think twice about going back to your old habits if you make yourself accountable to others. You will likely think twice about buying that expensive cashmere sweater if you know you friend is going to ask you about how your plan to save money is coming along when they see you wearing it.
Get professional help, if needed
Some things, like giving up smoking or drugs, can be almost impossible to do on your own. If you are addicted to nicotine or prescription painkillers, there might be more powerful forces at work than you can manage on your own. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get professional help to get you get your mind and body back in optimal condition. Remember: asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you care enough about yourself to get the help you need.
Get back on the horse when you fall off
Remember: the main reason people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions is because they give up after they have a set back. No one is perfect. Everyone has setbacks and bad days. Creating new habits and maintaining them is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are trying to lose 100 pounds, having a double cheeseburger and large serving of fries is not going to make a bit of difference in the long term. The trick to is to refocus on your long term goal and get back on track the next meal. Consistency is the key. As long as you go back to your plan every time you have a setback, you will eventually reach your goal.
Everyone at The River Club wishes you a happy, healthy 2021. Good luck keeping your New Year’s resolutions!