New Year's Resolutions

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5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions, According to a Licensed Psychologist

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Making real, meaningful changes is a lot harder than it looks

We’re getting toward that time in January when even the most committed among us start see their New Year’s resolutions crumble. The fact is, the vast, vast majority of people don’t even last a month before returning to their old habits. Thankfully, there are concrete steps you can take to keep your resolutions — but only if you’re truly committed to making a change. We asked Dr. Chuck Schaeffer, a licensed psychologist, for helpful ways to keep your New Year’s resolutions, and here’s what he had to say.

Assess Your Motivation for Change
“Many people are interested in making changes but few people are motivated to change. If you want to increase your likelihood of making changes you might want to honestly assess where you are. You can start by sitting down and really thinking about how much you want to change versus stay the same and what you will gain and lose by making changes. Sure, you want to lose weight, but is it worth losing the comfort of eating junk food or the stress relief of a drink after work? Next, think about the gains — how will it feel to wear your favorite dress again? What will it be like to have more energy and know you are increasing your life expectancy? If your list of gains is longer than your list of losses, than maybe you are ready to really commit to changing.”

Get an Accountability Partner
“Research shows that 92 percent of folks fail to meet New Year’s resolutions because they have no person help them be accountable and coach them through tough times. We all need support to achieve our goals, though many of us don’t like having to admit that we do our best when we can depend on others. What’s different about the minority of folks who can meet their resolutions? They have an accountability partner — a person they trust, who they report to about their progress and obstacles. An accountability partner can be family, friends, colleagues, or even a coach or solution-focused psychologist. No matter who the person is, they should be someone you can communicate with consistently and can trust enough to take their feedback to improve your likelihood of meeting your goals.”

Keep Your Goals Specific and Simple
“Rather than saying ,‘I want to eat healthier this year,’ state, ‘I will put together 10 balanced meal and snack options by mid-January, learn to cook six low-fat, high-protein meals by the end of January, and prepare, plan, and/or cook all my meals during weekdays by the end of February.’ Making your goals specific, with set deadlines, should help keep you motivated to move forward as each little victory will be seen as a sign of success.”

Enhance Your Internal Narrative
“Making changes is hard, and for many people they make resolutions with little thought of the things they tell themselves when they inevitably face obstacles in meeting their goals. When people stumble on their path toward change, many begin to beat themselves up, telling themselves one bad day or one misstep means they are never going to be able to change and that they will remain unhappy — creating a narrative of failure. The good news is that we always have the ability to change the narrative toward one of success. Forgiving yourself for an occasional lapse and reminding yourself of how you have succeeded after missteps in the past creates an empowering internal narrative that can help you stay on track and be successful.” 

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Make it Social
“In an age of social media and increased connectivity, one of the fastest-growing strategies to enlist support and track one’s progress in goals is through online communities and social networks. Blogging about your progress toward saving money, creating or joining a Facebook group for healthy eating, and enlisting support and feedback from fitness group message boards has helped a lot of people I work with to gain the recognition and validation from others that they need to stay on track and keep their resolutions.”

Dr. Chuck Schaeffer

Dr. Chuck Schaeffer

Dr. Chuck Schaeffer