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How to keep New Year’s resolutions year-round

by Brad Callow |

Ready for a little New Year’s resolution trivia? :

Did you know that 60% of people who sign up for a gym membership in January don’t continue past the first month? While the rest mostly drop off by mid-February.

BUT. By no means are we saying this to discourage people from making their own New Year’s resolutions.

Actually, we’re huge advocates for positive personal change no matter if it’s the 1st of January or the 21st of July.

So why are we bringing up this dire gym statistic?

We want everyone to succeed in their quest to sustain new healthy habits. But, for anyone struggling to do so, we think the first crucial step is to acknowledge this:

The way we approach resolution making typically doesn’t work.

While statistics on how many of us actually keep our resolutions vary from anywhere between 8% to 33% depending on the study- it’s pretty clear that the odds of us sticking to our New Year’s promises as a whole aren’t great.

Research suggests, the resolutions we most commonly break are:

  1. Not specific enough
  2. Too large to be sustainable

It’s probably not terribly groundbreaking to say that vowing to make a massive change in our lives, like say, to lose 30 pounds in a year, is typically a one-way ticket to burn-out-city.

And a vague resolution, such as I want to save more money usually leads to equally vague results.

So… what to do, what to do?

When it comes to building a healthier lifestyle, we don’t believe there is ever one single approach that will magically work for everyone.

But we are always looking to introduce - or remind - our readers of different science-backed methods that might help you find success in areas you may have previously struggled.

With that said, if you're currently having a hard time sticking to your New Year's resolutions - or any kind of change for that matter - we urge you to give this a try:

This year, try making a resolution that involves just one small  lifestyle change.

For instance, focusing on walking 15 minutes at lunch every day, rather than trying to lose 30 pounds this year, keeps things specific, feels manageable, but can still impact your life in a significant way.

Or, rather than making the blanket statement “I want to save more money”, try eliminating something specific from your budget that feels very doable. Like taking a water bottle with you everywhere you go so you no longer spend money on water. Or tackling some meal planning each weekend so you're less likely to eat out during the week. (Or hey, make it even easier on yourself and have us do the meal planning for you!)

There are a few theories as to why the “just one small change” approach is so effective:

The Domino Effect

This concept states:

Sticking to one small healthy habit will naturally trigger other healthy habits in your life.

For example, a new habit of walking 15 minutes at lunch every day might cause you to eat fewer calories at lunch, just because you weren’t at your desk for that extra 15 minutes each day. Or starting a new habit of pre-prepping 3 salads for the week on Sundays will help you eat healthier during the week, which might increase your overall energy, causing you to be more active.

And this isn’t just speculation.

In this 2012 Northwestern study, researchers were surprised to find that by simply asking participants to reduce their sedentary leisure time, they simultaneously decreased their fat intake. But here’s the kicker: none of the participants were ever told to do anything but move more. They just all happened to eat significantly less fat during that time period too.

Ego-depletion

Ego-depletion is the idea that we all have a limited pool of mental resources necessary to practice self-control.

In other words:

By making too big of a change, or too many changes at once, we can actually max out our willpower.

While this concept remains hotly debated, we think the underlying message, that it's easier to sustain smaller changes, makes a whole lot of sense. Whether your willpower actually has a finite volume or not, it feels pretty intuitive that the easier the task seems in our heads, the more likely we are to do it. And keep doing it.

 

Happy New Year all! May 2019 be filled with small resolutions that trigger big change!