1. Be realistic with yourself when setting your resolutions.
When creating goals, don’t set yourself up for failure. In an article called 10 Tricks for Setting – and Sticking to – Your Health New Year’s Resolution for EveryDayHealth.com, writer Denise Austin says that it’s important to give yourself “enough time and resources to accomplish your resolution,” instead of picking something that is unattainable or unhealthy.
For example: Vowing to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. That resolution is totally arbitrary, incredibly difficult, definitely unhealthy for most people… and you’re setting yourself up for both failure and misery. A much better option would be to focus on healthy-living goals that are reasonable and realistic and not tied to a specific number on the scale or timeframe.
2. Keep it simple.
Mary Jo Rapini, a licensed professional counselor and psychotherapist, tells BuzzFeed: “You can adapt one new habit, but working on five is going to become overwhelming, and you will be more likely to give up mid-January.” So yeah, you wanna quit smoking, learn to run, get more sleep, and learn to cook… but maybe pick one that you want the most, you know? That way you can devote your energy to it and be more likely to succeed.
3. Make specific and challenging goals, rather than broad or easy ones.
“Failure begins with vague or weak goals,” Michael Kitchens, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College, tells BuzzFeed in an email. So be specific! And make it something that you’re going to have to work for a bit.
“People who set high goals tend to accomplish more, but this does not mean that your goals should be unrealistic,” Kitchens says. “This simply means that setting an unreasonably low goal provides little motivation to reach your goal. Set a goal that is challenging, but manageable. That sensitive balance really can only be made by each person.”
For example: Instead of saying that you “want to lose weight,” try saying that you’re going to get half an hour of exercise at least three days a week. Something specific, so that you know exactly what you need to do to accomplish it.
4. Start taking action toward your goals instead of spending too much time in your head.
Wishful thinking doesn’t get you very far. You have to pick a goal that you really, truly care about… and then do it.
New York’s Science of Us blog recently ran a story called Your Positive Thinking Could Be Holding You Back, which was an excerpt from Gabriele Oettingen’s book RETHINKING POSITIVE THINKING: Inside the New Science of Motivation (Current Hardcover, 2014). In the Science of Us piece, Oettingen, a professor of psychology at NYU and the University of Hamburg, writes: “Conventional wisdom in psychology and self-help literature was wrong: positive thinking wasn’t always helpful.”
She goes on to warn about the trap you might fall into when it comes to positive thinking: “Yes, sometimes it did help, but when it came in the form of a free-flowing dream – as so much positive thinking does – it impeded people in the long term from moving ahead. People were quite literally dreaming themselves to a standstill.”
However, you can use all that “wishful thinking” energy and turn it into “doing” energy by picking a goal that’s near to your heart.
“Wanting to do something provides the energy to motivate you – you won’t feel tired or overwhelmed, because desire gives energy and purpose,” Los Angeles-based psychologist Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., tells BuzzFeed in an email.
5. Do it for you.
“Don’t do it to impress, please or prove something to anyone else,” says Raymond. “Those motives cause stress, exhaustion and low self-esteem.”
Additionally, it’s important to “choose a resolution that makes you feel good when you do it as you go about your daily life, rather than give yourself a time by which you ‘have to’ achieve it, or else it will fail.”
This means you’ll feel better about your goal if it’s something you can measure more frequently than a one-time, faraway goal; if you experience more rewards from your resolution along the way, you’ll want to keep going!
Working out three days a week, for instance, is a great example: The more you work out, the better you feel, the more you begin to crave working out. It’s a positive, self-reinforcing cycle of goodness.
6. Create more mini-goals instead of bigger ones.
“Creating mini-goals, or identifying small steps toward the achievement of a larger goal, is important because reaching that step bolsters motivation to continue on,” Virginia Brabender, Ph.D., professor of psychology atWidener University tells BuzzFeed in an email.
The more things you can cross off, the more awesome you’ll feel! Plus, mini-goals can be easier to tackle than one big goal.
For example, say your overall goal is to eat less sugar. Some mini goals you can set for yourself:
-Learn the difference between added sugars and natural sugars
-Keep a food diary for a few days before giving up sugar, to figure out where your biggest sources of sugar are coming from
-Go through your cabinets and toss anything with a lot of added sugars
-Go to the grocery store and stock up on foods that have only natural sugars and no (or fewer) added sugars
-Take a Sunday afternoon to plan out some meals and snacks that are easy to make so that you don’t have THINK very much about everything you eat — you’re doing the thinking ahead of time.
-Check out this list of 14 ways to eat less sugar for more tips
7. Use the buddy system.
Find a buddy “who also wants to make a change, and establish a regular daily, weekly, or in-between check-in for support and accountability. (The more frequent the better.)” Jude Bijou, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Attitude Reconstruction, tells BuzzFeed.
Downloading apps like RunKeeper or MyFitnessPal is an easy way to connect with friends who share similar goals and habits, and keep each other up to date on your accomplishments and successes. You can also create a Facebook page with friends where you can all share your progress and cheer each other on.
8. If your resolution failed last time… think about what went wrong. Then go ahead and try again, but fix parts that didn’t work.
“We know that the more often someone attempts to change a habit, the more likely they are to succeed,” Jonathan Jackson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Psychological Services and of Practicum Training at the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University, tells BuzzFeed.
So don’t look at a previous failed resolution as a complete failure. Think of it as a first step in the right direction. Only this time, you’ll be armed with knowledge of what went wrong last time — plus these helpful tips for how to make your resolution actually stick this time around.
9. Be your own biggest fan.
You wouldn’t tell your friend that she sucks, so why do you say those sorts of things to yourself? Bijou says you should find and label your “old destructive thinking (‘I’ve already blown it today; I’ll start tomorrow.’), and then find contradictions that support the ‘you’ you want to become. Remind yourself of your goal and the reality when you start to waiver.”
So instead of saying: “I skipped my workout today because I’m lazy,” tell yourself, “I had a great workout two days ago, and I’m going to be well rested and ready for another great workout tomorrow.”
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