Is there anything new to say about making or breaking New Year’s resolutions? Though it’s been fifty plus years that I’ve contemplated making such things, I’m not even sure I have anything profound to say about them. But let me try because this is about the time when most of us give up or at least consider breaking our resolutions.
The standard New Year’s resolutions often fall in two categories — those that “deprive” us and those that fulfill us. Among those that “deprive” are: to eat less (and lose weight), spend less time on the couch, quit smoking, cut down on alcohol, cut back on using the credit card, pay down the credit card, etc. And the more fulfilling ones are: to fall in love, spend more time with family, help others, learn something exciting, or be a better person.
The sad thing is that most of us do not keep our resolutions and I’m as guilty as the next person. I wish I had kept a journal of my resolutions over the years just to see what my priorities and early desires were. Maybe there should be an app for it so we can track our progress over the years!
What’s exciting is that we now understand more about how change happens and what behaviors re-wire the brain to reinforce real change. Here are 3 tips for making your New Year’s resolution stick:
- Your goal should be clear and concrete. How much weight do you want to lose? How much money do you want to save? Which language do you want to learn? Finding a school or manner in which to learn this language may be the frosting on the cake!
- Then find a reward for making the change. It’s hard for anyone to motivate themselves without a reward. Find some way to treat yourself. Whether it’s scheduling a massage, buying a new dress, going out for a nice dinner, any kind of reward will help motivate you to make your desired change.
- Repeat for 2 to 3 weeks. It’s important for the brain to have constant repetition for a set number of days. The exact number is a bit unclear but should be at least 2 or 3 weeks. With repetition, scientists have found that the brain starts producing a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that works like a fertilizer for the brain. It increases brain plasticity, so you can think clearly and focus for longer periods of time and then the change becomes a good habit!
Bonus tip: Having a coach or someone to share the experience with you is also very helpful but not critical.
Change is not instant but it is possible at any age! I’m still not sure I am going to try anything new this year. I’m really into just accepting myself as I am, appreciating all the good around me and giving thanks for my friends, good health, and great working environment. Maybe in the next couple weeks I’ll feel the need to look beyond this or maybe I’ll wait until my birthday in September. The start of the new school year seems like a better designation for a change. Or maybe I’ll wait at least until the crocuses and daffodils start coming up and the outside looks NEW.
Please share your ideas about New Year’s resolutions...