“Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.”— Anonymous
Does this sound anything like your previous attempts at New Year’s resolutions? It sure sounds a lot like mine. I always start off January with the best of intentions. I just know that this will be the year that I finally drop those stubborn extra pounds, pay off debt, form stronger relationships and start following a healthier diet. And for the first month or so, I’m really good at it. I cook more meals at home, make time for the gym and say no to extra spending. But as they say, old habits die hard, and by early spring I usually find that my old ways have come back to haunt me.
As it turns out, there’s a scientific explanation for why we struggle with keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Joseph Shrand, M.D., an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, offers some insight on why it’s so difficult to control compulsive urges. Self-restraint lies in the front part of the brain, the part that is most recently evolved and most vulnerable to survival instincts. Pleasure, on the other hand, resides in the most primitive part of the brain and has evolved to reward us with dopamine when we satisfy its urges. This brain chemistry was designed to promote life-giving activities like eating and reproduction, but we experience that same pleasurable reward when we give in to compulsive urges like spending sprees and eating chocolate ice cream (Source: WebMD).
While your brain may not be on your side when it comes to setting healthy new goals, there are some tricks that can help you stay on track throughout the New Year. Once you’ve settled on your resolutions for 2017, follow these steps to make your goals a reality:
Put it on paper
Studies have shown that people who write down their goals are much more likely to achieve them compared to people who don’t write down goals at all. Write your resolutions on a single piece of paper and hang it in a visible place like your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Seeing your goals each day will inspire you to work towards them and serve as a gentle reminder when you get off track.
Find your motivation
Take some time to evaluate your reasons for setting these resolutions in the first place. Maybe you want to lose extra weight so you’ll have more energy to play with your children, or you want to eat healthier to lower your risk of colon cancer. Finding purpose in your goals will encourage you to make them a priority. You may even want to add your reasons to your list of New Year’s resolutions!
Find an accountability partner
Did you know that people who exercise with a workout partner have a 95 percent success rate? That’s more than double the 43 percent success rate of individuals who work out alone. Humans are social creatures, and that means we thrive when we have someone to share in our successes and failures. Whether is your spouse, neighbor or friend, finding someone who shares your goals and passions will help propel you towards success.
Let’s be honest; no one can be perfect 100 percent of the time. Setbacks are going to happen, and there will be days that end in disappointment. Don’t let that be a reason to quit. It’s easier to rebound from a few days (or even weeks) of failure than months or years. If you do get off track with your goals, forgive yourself and start making positive changes as soon as possible. Even one small step towards your goal will boost your confidence and inspire you to keep moving in the right direction.
New Year’s resolutions are always tough, but so are you! With hard work and determination, you can make 2017 your greatest, healthiest year yet. Start thinking about what you’d like to accomplish in the New Year and create a game plan to help you get there. Health, happiness and new beginnings are right around the corner!