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A New Year is the time to reflect on the year that has passed while embracing the one that has just arrived. Most people begin the year with New Year's Resolutions and try to change or create a new, healthier behavior. Unfortunately, resolutions are tough to keep! That's why we've got some strategies aimed at helping you keep your resolution in 2021.
For any behavior to change, you need three things: motivation, opportunity, and capability. Basically, in order to make a resolution work, you need to have the right amount of motivation to do so, opportunities to make it happen, and you must be realistically able to achieve it. The tips below are about maximizing all three of these qualities.
The first step in choosing a New Year's resolution that is right for you, is choosing something that you want to do, not something that you have to do or should do. You should choose your resolution based on what motivates you, not based on what other people are doing. Psychologists say that sometimes, people feel pressure to have a resolution, but if you don't have the motivation from within to change your behavior, then you are unlikely to follow it through.
It's easy to talk your resolution up, but realistically, can you achieve it? For instance, if you've never gone to the gym, don't expect yourself to start going everyday. Instead, be realistic about your goals. Psychologists also say that people have a tendency to "self enhance" - or, think of themselves in very positive ways, which leads us to believe that we can do anything that we want to do.
That belief though, can sometimes be counterproductive. The best way to go about tackling a resolution is to set small goals for yourself. Once you begin to make progress, you'll feel more confident in your abilities and feel good about yourself. By setting unachievable goals, you're most likely to feel discouraged because you haven't been able to achieve them.
A common resolution for many people is to lose weight, or to get in shape. But, a resolution like those are too broad. The odds of success are likely to increase if you choose specific behaviors that will help you to reach your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, how are you going to do it? What are you going to do? The more specific a resolution is, the more likely you are to achieve it.
Once you have set a realistic, attainable goal, spend some time planning how you will work it into your current schedule. For example, if you're resolution is to call a family member more often, think of how you will remember to do so. Will you set regular reminders on your phone? If you want to go for a morning run, will you go to bed earlier? Or maybe lay out your workout clothes in advance? Research shows that if you plan ahead, you're more likely to do it.
Temptation will be lurking around the corners, and sometimes it will be easier to want to give in to those temptations than not to. This is when you have to plan for how you will cope in situations that mess up your resolution plan. Anticipate certain situations and plan from there. For example, say you want to go to the gym, but you're exhausted and would much rather prefer a night in. For that situation, perhaps save some online, at-home, workout videos.
Many resolutions derive from the desire to break an old habit. One thing to note and recognize is what triggers that habit. If there's a behavior that you want to change, you have to try to track the initial triggers. For example: if you eat too many unhealthy snacks, keep a food log. Write down each unhealthy snack you've eaten, how you were feeling in that moment, who you were with, or simply what mood you were in. This leaves you able to look back and see a potential pattern. If you find that a certain mood, or being in a certain place triggers your habit, you can then try to avoid those cues, which avoids the habit.
We know it's not always easy to avoid the triggers that cause bad habits. For instance, stressful situations, such as work stress, aren't easily avoidable. In those cases, you can associate a trigger with a new, healthier habit. If you're trying to break an existing habit, the best thing to do is consistently replace the habit with a new one in those situations. For example: snacking while watching television is pretty easy to do, but instead of munching on chips, replace those with grapes, carrots, any fruit or vegetable. That way, you are using your existing habit, but changing your response to the cue.
It can be easy to want to jump right in, but it's important to give serious thought to a resolution before diving right in. Any behavioral change requires thought and advanced planning, so the more thought you can give it, the better off you'll be.