Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?
We are a little over three weeks into the New Year. If you are finding it hard to hold onto your resolution, you are not alone!
There are many theories of why we aren’t able to see it through to the end. Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, believes that people make resolutions to motivate themselves, but aren’t really ready to change their habits. Through the use of MRIs, brain scientists Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux and psychotherapist Stephen Hayes have discovered that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns create neural pathways and memories. This becomes the default basis for your behavior when you’re faced with a choice or decision. In trying to change that default thinking by “not trying to do it” in effect just strengthens it.
So what can you do to better keep those resolutions on track?
- Focus on one goal, rather than multiple. Make them realistic and specific. An example would be to lose 5 pounds by April, rather than just losing weight.
- Don’t wait until the New Year’s Eve to make a resolution. Make it a year long process.
- Make a plan that involves small steps. Too many quit when faced with a mountain but taking a few steps at a time makes it easier.
- Have a friend, partner, family member who makes you accountable.
- Celebrate your success between milestones; don’t wait until the end to celebrate!
- Create those new neural pathways by focus thinking on new behaviors and patterns.
- Focus on the present. What is one thing you can do today towards your goal?
In following these steps, it becomes easier for us all to make our goals!