“New year, new me,” the unofficial catchphrase of New Year’s Day, will be ringing in our ears in just a few weeks on Jan. 1 as resolutions are made across the country. Of course, come February, many of these will be abandoned as gym memberships go unused, diets are broken and plans to save go out the window with splurge after splurge. Resolutions are easy to make but harder to keep, so how do we take these resolutions and change them into real habits?
According to Dr. Cindy Swann, PLNU Director of Dietetics, Sociology, Social Work, and Social Sciences, the best way to go about keeping a New Year’s resolution is to make specific goals rather than overarching ones, like saying you’ll run ten minutes a day instead of just generally exercise more.
“It has to be steps, and most people when they make a resolution, it’s something like ‘oh, I’m going to eat better,’ so they don’t frame it in a way that they can be successful. It’s about little changes they can live with,” said Swann, who has been working as an outpatient dietitian for 30 years.
Swann recommends using SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time. If you don’t have the resources or time to achieve a resolution, then it will likely fail in that early period.
According to Swann, the key to keeping New Year’s resolutions is to suit them to what works best for yourself, not what seems to work best for someone else. Finding something you enjoy will make the resolution easier to keep in the long run.
“It goes back to ‘is this something that’s meaningful to me, that I’m motivated to do, that I’m willing to do?’” Swann said. “If it’s something they love to do and it’s just a matter of finding the time, they’re more likely to do it ”
However, even with the best of intentions, motivation can fade and the desire to quit may arise, especially when things go wrong. According to Jane Collingwood, the best way to deal with these difficult times is to draw on past successes.
“Really feel proud of your past achievements and don’t become critical of yourself. People with higher self-esteem and confidence are in a much better position to succeed, so immediately forgive yourself and say ‘I’m starting again now,’” Collingwood said in her article for Psych Central.
To last beyond the first week of January, a resolution needs to become a habit. According to James Clear, behavioral psychologist, it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. Those first two months of trying to stick to a new resolution are the most crucial. To help with habit forming, Collingwood recommends making physical notes of your goals and time frame where you’ll look at them and find a support system to keep you going.
“You can say you’re going to do it, but you can let things interfere,” Swann said. “Until you start saying ‘I can’t do that, that’s when Zumba is,’ that’s when it starts to become more of a habit.”