Tips for successful New Year's resolutions

Tips for successful New Year's resolutions


Less than half of us actually make resolutions for the New Year and it's a rare individual that actually keeps that resolution throughout the year.

So, why do we persist? Mostly, it's cultural. Self-improvement has always been a societal expectation. Why not at least take a look at a personal improvement that might make life a little better? Statistically, people who do make a New Year's resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their lives than those who don't. So why are they hard to keep?

We often tend to set unreasonable aims for ourselves. When those goals don't meet our expectations, or benefits are delayed, we can experience negative emotions and question our motivation, which can lead to a negative toll on our self-worth--in short, a one-way ticket to giving up.

We don't tend to value the benefits of failure. Failure is a necessary part of growth and learning. Many of history's greatest figures had periods of pronounced setbacks, without which they might not have become the examples they are.

According to many scientists, making resolutions work involves changing behaviors. And in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking. MRI studies show how habitual behavior is created by thought patterns which generate new neural pathways and memories. It's essentially about "rewiring" your brain to respond in different ways when you have to make decisions or choices.

That said, if you still feel compelled to make New Year's resolutions, here's some tips to help you make them work:

Focus on one resolution, rather than several and set realistic, specific and time-bound goals. Losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 10 pounds in three months is specific.

Psychology Today recently posted some other suggestions:

• Don't wait till New Year's Eve to make resolutions. Make it a year-long process, every day.

• Take small steps. Many people quit because the goal is too big requiring too much effort and action all at once.

• Have an accountability buddy, someone close to you to whom you have to report.

• Celebrate your success between milestones. Don't wait for the goal to be finally completed.

• Focus your thinking on new behaviors and thought patterns. You have to create new neural pathways in your brain to change habits.

• Focus on the present. What's the one thing you can do today, right now, towards your goal?

• Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment-by-moment, rather than living in the past or future.

At St. Mary's Medical Center, we hope at least some of those resolutions will involve your health. Here are a few suggestions:

• Make healthier food choices.

• Be active for at least two and a half hours a week. Children and adolescents should get at least 1 hour of physical activity each day.

• Be smoke-free. If you are ready to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free counseling. Join a support group or talk with former smokers.

• Get enough sleep. Remember that sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.

• Reduce injuries by using seat belts, child safety seats, booster seats and helmets that are appropriate for your child's age and weight.

• Gather and share family health history.

• Be a healthy caregiver-take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

 • Encourage family members to get check-ups and screenings.

• Don't forget your "extended" family. Get pets vaccinated and keep pets healthy.

From all of us at St. Mary's, wishes for all good thing for your body, mind and spirit in the New Year.