For many people, a new year equals a new commitment to lose weight. Or workout more. Or eat less junk food. Some of these people will succeed…but most won’t.
In fact, according to studies, four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions will eventually break them…and a third won’t even make it to the end of January.
Here are five clues that you’re focusing on the wrong resolutions (and a few more that you can REALLY commit to):
You’re trying to change too much. One mistake people make is attempting to change too much at once. The behaviors associated with them can be hard to maintain.
You’re too focused on the wrong goals. If you want to lose weight, and tend to eat too much, you should ask yourself why you overeat. If it’s because you’re stressed, or not getting enough sleep, then your real focus needs to be on that. By default, it may then be easier to manage the bad habits that result from the real problem.
You’re not flexible enough with your goals. When health goals fall short, people often give up instead of readjusting those goals. For example, your resolution is to work out in the morning, but you keep oversleeping. Instead of opting to try working out at lunch, you just give up altogether.
You’re not being very nice to yourself. According to a 2007 study published the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, highly restrictive eaters who were taught to think more self-compassionately about how they eat ate less candy compared to the restrictive eaters who were not taught to be self-compassionate. Why? People who treat themselves with compassion might be more successful because they are less motivated to compensate for negative feelings by adopting unhealthy behaviors.
Try these resolution tips:
Choose goals you can actually manage. For example, if you haven’t been exercising at all, try to fit in activity for 15 minutes most days of the week. Or, instead of saying “I’m going to eat all healthy food and never eat junk food again,” pick one area of your diet to focus on, such as drinking more water every day. Once you’re used to this new behavior, then you can add on from there.
Choose goals you actually need. Check the all the areas of your life to figure out what changes really need to be made. Are you getting enough sleep every night? Do you spend quality time with your loved ones? Healthy actions tend to affect various areas of your life, so just because you don’t have a specific resolution to go to the gym every single day doesn’t mean you won’t end up losing pounds as a result of being healthier in other aspects of your life.
Instead of giving up restaurants, learn how to share. When eating out, split an entree and dessert with your friend or a loved one (or, when placing your order, ask for half of it to be wrapped up to go immediately). You’ll save calories and money.
Eat your veggies first. Stuffing yourself with produce, such as salad, before every meal is a good way to cut calories. A study from Pennsylvania State University conducted an experiment during which 42 women were given pasta dinners. When the women ate salad before the main course, they reduced their calorie intake by 12 percent.
Experiment with foods you’re not used to. Don’t make a resolution to overhaul you’re entire diet…these types of resolutions generally fail. Instead, find a couple of changes you can easily make, then go from there. For example, if you want to eat more whole grains instead of refined and processed foods, choose one or two whole grain products you like, such as brown rice and/or wheat bread. Make sure to experiment until you find substitutions you actually like…or you’ll be more likely to just give up.
Do something new with a loved one. In one study, couples were assigned a weekly date night. One group did pleasant but familiar activities such as dinner with friends or a movie. The other group chose new activities they both enjoyed, such as going to the amusement park or taking a pottery class. Based on answers to relationship tests, the couples doing new things showed far more improvement in the quality of their marriage after 10 weeks than couples who did the same things every week.
Use a pedometer. If you attach a pedometer to your belt, you will move more. In November, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that showed people who used pedometers to monitor their daily activity walked about 2,000 more steps every day, or about one extra mile, compared to those who wore covered pedometers and couldn’t monitor their steps. People who used pedometers also showed statistically meaningful drops in body mass index and blood pressure.
Stop making so many resolutions! Studies suggest that willpower is very limited. If you make too many resolutions, you won’t have enough willpower to stick to all of them. It’s better to make one or two resolutions, as opposed to five.