It’s that time of year when we start thinking about our New Year’s resolutions. In case you missed it last year, we are re-posting Dr. Jill Castro’s blog so you know what kinds of resolutions are likely succeed.
It’s that time of year again: a clean slate, a fresh start, tabula rasa. The time of year when we’re most motivated to kick our goals into high gear, shed our poor habits and usher in the best versions of ourselves. We resolve that this year will be different. This will be the year that our New Year’s resolutions won’t fall to the wayside. Of course, resolutions are much easier to make then keep. If you’re like me, than most of your New Year’s resolutions have lost their momentum by February or March.
According to research by John Norcross and his colleagues, approximately 50% of the population makes resolutions each New Year, but unsurprisingly the vast majority of these resolutions are not long-lasting. Research suggests that this lack of success is due to an un-realistic approach to goal-setting. Instead of creating a detailed plan of attack, we tend to make lofty and overly broad hopes and goals.
Below are five of the most common New Year’s resolutions, reasons why you should resolve not to make them this year, and helpful tips on creating resolutions that are more likely to stick:
1) I will lose weight.
The #1 reason why this resolution is sure to fail is because it actually is not a resolution at all; it’s the end result of a series of small goals. If you’re serious about losing weight, start with a small goal that is likely to get you there. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. In comparison to resolving to simply “lose weight,” a more specific goal would be to “Take a brisk walk three times per week for 15 minutes.” When it comes to losing weight, it is best to smart with small, attainable goals. It is also best to build your weight-loss routine week-by-week rather than pressuring yourself to make a major change that will last the entire year.
2) I will eat healthier.
Everyone who’s said that they will eat healthier as a New Year’s resolution has probably regretted it at some point. Not because they haven’t lost weight, but because it’s nearly impossible to transform one’s eating habits without a detailed plan. Again, goals should be attainable and realistic, so start slow when it comes to dietary changes. A good place to start may be designing a meal plan for the week ahead or choosing to limit a reasonable amount of junk food from your diet.
3) I will get out of debt.
Many people aspire to repair their finances, but without setting specific parameters to control your spending, you won’t make very much progress. A resolution to track your spending may a better place to start. Thankfully, websites like mint.com or simple.com are designed to help you figure out where your money is going in order to create a realistic budget.
4) I will be a better person.
Of all of the lofty New Year’s resolutions that I’ve heard over the years, this one is by far the loftiest. If you find yourself resolving to be a better person this year, it’s time to streamline the process by noting specific things that you would like to change about the way you interact with yourself and the world. If you conclude that you are lacking in the giving department, a more specific goal may be to donate a certain percentage of your income to a given charity, or donate a specific amount of time per month to help at a specific location, like the Humane Society. If you conclude that you have not been giving enough time and energy to yourself, you may resolve to meditate for half an hour per day, or sign up to take a class for pleasure, like a pottery or cooking class.
5) I will spend more time with family and friends.
Resolving to spend more times with family and friends always sounds like a great idea during the holiday season, but once you return to your regular work schedule and February rolls around, you slip back into our old routine just like a pair of cozy pajama pants. When it comes to this resolution, a more realistic approach may be to resolve to make time with friends and family more meaningful rather than pressuring yourself to fill your calendar by saying “yes” to every social opportunity that comes your way. A specific and attainable goal could be to put your cell phone out of reach when dining with others, or planning a monthly play date with your nephew.
By Dr. Jill Castro, PsyD, LP, Aging Certificate Coordinator and Assistant Director of Clinical Training at MSP