How to stick to your New Year's resolution, according to a scientist

Washington DC - The new year has begun, and it's time to finally put into practice the resolutions you've been thinking up for weeks. This, of course, is easier said than done, as most people surely know from their own experience. A psychology professor explains how it can finally work out this year with the implementation.

Many people resolve to quit smoking in the new year.
Many people resolve to quit smoking in the new year.  © 123RF/dariakulkova

According to a study, almost 50% of people who make New Year's resolutions end up throwing them out by February.

Jelena Kecmanovic of Georgetown University has been researching willpower and perseverance for years, and according to her article on IFLSCIENCE, there are seven strategies that can help you stick to your resolutions.

1. Clarify and honor your values

You should ask yourself why you set those particular goals in the first place.

Resolutions made out of social pressure tend to fail much faster than those set based on your own "authentic values."

2. Shape your goals and your life positively

"Focus on what you want to accomplish, not what you don’t," Kecmanovic explained.

For example: you should not resolve to stop drinking alcohol during the week. Instead, it's be better to resolve to drink your favorite healthy beverage every day.

In general, it is also important to realize the things that are already positive or that make you happy.

3. Change the environment to make it easier

"I want to read more" is also often mentioned as an intention for the new year.
"I want to read more" is also often mentioned as an intention for the new year.  © 123rf/racorn

This means that you shouldn't complicate things for yourself by having sweets scattered around your home if you want to lose weight. This puts an unnecessary and avoidable strain on your self-control.

Also, it is always advisable to team up with people who have similar goals as you.

4. Prepare yourself with "if–then" strategies.

There will always be obstacles or challenges of some kind, so it's important to have plans in place just in case. "When you’re tired and about to skip that gym class you signed up for, call your supportive sister who is on standby," Kecmanovic stated.

You should think of as many difficulties as possible and create a coping strategy for each.

5. Approach your goal in small steps

Many people resolve to exercise more.
Many people resolve to exercise more.  © Unsplash/jennyhill

The bar should not be set too high. It is better to set small but realistic goals at first, so that you also have a sense of achievement.

6. Imagine rewards

"Picture the feeling of endorphins circulating through your body after a run," Kecmanovic advised. Such visualizations can make it easier to start the endeavor in the first place. "If it’s hard to imagine or experience these rewards in the beginning, decide on small, meaningful gifts you can give yourself until the positive effects of the new behaviors kick in."

7. Be kind to yourself, even in the face of setbacks.

People who are particularly hard on themselves – even when they have minor setbacks – tend to have little success in achieving their goals and New Year's resolutions. "Try self-compassion instead. Cut yourself some slack and remember that being human means being imperfect," the scientist explained.

Don't give up just because you did eat a donut, she said. "Treat yourself with care and understanding and then recommit to your goal the following day."

Cover photo: Collage: 123rf/dariakulkova & racorn/Unsplash/jennyhill

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