This year will be different!” That’s the rally cry for those of us who continue to make and break New Year’s resolutions. There is some good news though; psychologists have conducted vast amounts of research on how to break bad habits and establish good ones. If you follow some of these research-based tips, there is a good chance this year will be different.
1. Be Specific
If we are not specific in our resolutions, we are less likely to change our behaviour.For example, a resolution to ‘get in shape’ is almost certainly doomed to fail. ‘Get in shape’ doesn’t really mean anything, in the sense that it is unclear what behaviour is going to change. However, a person who makes a resolution to do 20 push-ups before leaving for work each weekday is much more likely to succeed. The more specific the better.
2. Don’t Rely on Willpower
Make your environment work for you. Willpower can be fleeting. Going to the gym before work may seem like the right thing to do when you’re thinking about it this afternoon, but it’s a much different story when you wake up in the morning and try to pull yourself out of bed. Knowing that, engineer your environment to increase the likelihood of doing the things you want to do. If you want to go to the gym in the morning, have your workout gear by the bed and your clothes for the office in the car. When you get in your car, your choice is to go to the gym, or go back in the house and change. You’re much more likely to hit the weights!
3. Get Enough Sleep
There is a wealth of research that shows that a lack of sleep is associated with lowered self-control. On top of that, having insufficient sleep is associated with a number of both physical and mental health issues. Be sure to get enough rest.
4. Bring a Friend
Social commitment is a powerful tool to help us keep resolutions. Your friends and co-workers can help you succeed. If you have a friend relying on you for a ride to the gym, you’re much more likely to go. Having others with you is not only enjoyable, but a great strategy to help you maintain your goals.
5. Keep Experimenting
One of the main reasons that resolutions fail is that when we break the resolution once, we tend to give up. Let’s say you make a resolution to go to the gym every day. If you miss a day, you may think that the resolution is broken and that you just don’t have the willpower to continue. Instead of admitting defeat, think about the reasons that you didn’t go to the gym, and then try something different. Experiment! It’s human to make the occasional mistake. Rather than giving up, learn from missteps and try something new.