Keeping New Year's Resolutions
Every year, millions of people choose January 1st as the day to begin a new life. And why not? It's a new year, and the feeling of starting over brings most of us a sense of relief. Each January, we say that this will be the year that we eat healthier foods, exercise more, quit smoking, save money...but often, by March we have slipped from our promises to ourselves. Why is it so easy to make a New Year's resolution and yet so hard to keep it?
Don't worry-you're not the first one to have this problem. Aristotle called it akrasia, which he defined as "acting against one's better judgment." We know that eating less sugar and exercising more is good for us, and yet we find ourselves eating chocolate cake in front of the television. Current research at the University of Minnesota has found that we all have a limited capacity for self-control, and the more demands there are in the consumer environment, the harder it can be to adhere to our goal of a healthier life. In short: maintaining a high level of motivation is tricky when we're surrounded by temptations.
Here are some tips to help you stick to the goal you have designed for yourself:
- Team up. It's much easier to stick to a plan if you're being held accountable for it. If you've got a friend with a similar goal, set up a plan to enact it together: take jogs together in the morning, share food diaries, or go to a group meeting. Cheer each other on and celebrate small successes together.
- Don't try to do too much at once. Experts at Stanford University School of Medicine found in a 2002 study that setting too lofty a goal will decrease your chances of success. Don't jump into a high-intensity exercise plan or suddenly ban all sugars from your diet. Experts suggest easing into a manageable workout plan or simply eating smaller portions at meals. The idea is to create a plan that you will be able to follow for the rest of your life-not just this year.
- Anticipate obstacles and be forgiving of slip-ups. Look ahead in your calendar to see where you might have difficulty sticking to your goal. Is there a party coming up with rich and fatty foods on the menu? Are you going to be at a work retreat and away from the gym for a week? Don't let these obstacles derail you-make them a part of your plan. And if you have a setback, ask yourself why it occurred so that you'll be more aware of your vulnerabilities next time. Being mindful of the process, rather than judgmental, will help you have a relaxed and friendly attitude toward your progress.
Check out the Create a Healthy Lifestyle tool to help you design a personalized plan for improving your physical, mental, and spiritual health in the new year.