Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

1-8-2016 11-08-11 AMIt’s that time of year again: New Year’s. For many people, it is a time to set goals for the year ahead, an opportunity to start over. A new year signals something inside us to change, and we are more aware of our own shortcomings. There are all kinds of promises we make to ourselves, such as learning something new (my classes started on January 4th), paying off debt, or getting organized. Also, most people have at least one health-related goal on their list of “resolutions.” Incidentally, it is often the one that was also present last New Year’s, but that somehow never became a priority. Instead of needing to lose that 20 pounds, we now need to lose 30 or maybe even more.

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Why is it that we don’t meet these goals we set for ourselves? Part of the problem is that we don’t know how to set goals. If we set goals that are unrealistic, then we set ourselves up for failure from the very beginning. For more information on goal-setting, especially as it relates to exercise, see Janet Hunt’s article on page …

Rather than making a generalized goal like “eating healthy,” losing weight, or “getting in shape,” it is important to clearly and specifically define your terms. Make the most of your New Year’s resolutions by making a plan that you can actually stick to and accomplish that goal you’ve been setting for yourself year after year. Also, make sure that you are truly ready to change your habits before promising yourself you will. If you aren’t committed to the change, it is much less likely to occur, thus setting you up for lower self-esteem and more procrastination.

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Many people set goals for themselves with the wrong motivation. They think that if they lose that weight, get that new job, or pay off that debt, then it will make them happy, improve their relationships, or somehow make life easier. When these things don’t happen, the “bad behaviors” that people are attempting to change revert back to the comfortable lack of action.

In order to make your resolutions stick, you must rewire the pathways in your brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist, says “It all begins in your mind: your thinking, your emotions, and your choices. If your mind isn’t right, then you will not stick with anything, no matter how great.”

Below you will find some tips to improve your outcomes when making resolutions.

1. Focus on one goal as opposed to several. Changing just one little thing at a time is much more manageable than trying to totally reinvent yourself.
2. Make resolutions SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
3. Don’t wait until the new year to make your resolutions. Instead, try making one new resolution every 3 months (or more often if you like).
4. Fully integrating a change takes at least 21 days, so make a goal that you are willing to spend some time on.
5. Find a buddy. Having someone to hold you accountable will increase your likelihood of accomplishing your goals, and will help your friend accomplish theirs in return.
6. Focus on what you can do today. Worrying about tomorrow, next week, or next year only sets you back.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN