The Science Behind Sticking to Your Resolutions
Create Positive Plans
Ambitious plans are commendable ("I'm going to lose 30 pounds this year!"), but they don't account for inevitable roadblocks. If you want to have a fighting chance at sticking to your resolutions, you would do well to develop if-then plans: If someone brings cupcakes or pizza or candy to work, then I.... And before you finish that thought, consider the results of a study from Utrecht University in the Netherlands: Researchers found that how you craft the second part of your statement can keep you on course or knock you off. Subjects who used a strategy of negation
(If someone brings cupcakes, then I won't have one) were more likely to give in to temptation than those who used more positive statements (If someone brings cupcakes, then I'll treat myself to the hummus and crackers I keep stashed in the office fridge). Bottom line: Instead of focusing on what's off-limits, enjoy the things that are still fair game.
Healthify a Guilty Pleasure
The constant push and pull between what you should do (exercise, eat right) and what you want to do (binge-watch TV, eat pints of ice cream) can be exhausting. But researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard have devised a novel fix: Combine your "shoulds" with your "wants" to lessen regret and increase follow-through. They found that subjects who were allowed to listen to gripping novels on tape only while exercising were up to 51 percent more likely to go to the gym than those who were simply encouraged to work out.
"So often, we set goals but lack a clear idea of what success should really look like," says Ben Michaelis, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City. "Then when we come up short, we feel worthless." Rethink your strategy, says Michaelis. Before you embark on any life changes, outline a range of positive outcomes that could result, and don't aim for perfection: "I cleave to the distinction between the pursuit of excellence and the pursuit of perfectionism. Nothing in nature is perfect, and when you try to be perfect, you're typically operating from a place of fear." Instead, ask yourself, What do I want to learn? You can learn from almost any experience, which means nothing need be viewed as a total failure.