How to Accomplish Your New Year’s Resolutions with Science

: A person giving up on their New Year’s resolution to “run more” With the help of science, maybe they can still make their fitness goal come true.
Photo credit: Illustration by Lucinda Drake.

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions? To run more? To spend less? To call your grandma more often? Well, according to University of Scranton, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions. This small percentage is due to several factors: the size, achievability, and number of resolutions a person sets for themselves. Aside from the structure of the resolutions, the mindset of setting a resolution for New Year’s also automatically sets people up to fail. So how do we help avoid this? According to Greg Garcia, a psychology teacher at Franklin, the answer lies within the concept of “re-framing” from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Garcia explains that “the purpose of this therapy is to slowly change thought patterns concerning a topic.” This strategy has also been used to treat PTSD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and can easily be applied to New Year’s resolutions.The following five tips are designed to help you avoid the symptoms of a doomed resolution, with science!

  1. Start small. Instead of trying to tackle one large goal like losing a large sum of weight or writing an entire novel, try breaking up this goal into smaller pieces and make smaller short-term goals, because according to Garcia, “those small victories [will] turn into big ones.” Since replacing and changing things in your life takes time, so should resolutions. This is where “re-framing” comes into play. Focus on making changes slowly, and hopefully your thought patterns will follow suit. Breaking up large resolutions into smaller ones makes them easier to accomplish, and therefore less likely to fail by the end of January.
  2. Make your goals attainable, measurable and realistic. If a New Year’s resolution is too big or too vague, it seems more daunting to accomplish and you’re not as likely to follow through with it. The trick to beat this is to make smaller, more achievable goals. Although they aren’t as sexy as one big goal, small goals are more likely to keep you motivated and help you work up to the large goal you had in mind. By measuring your goals, it is easier to see the changes, and by keeping these small goals realistic, it is easier to stick to them.
  3. Visualize your goal and believe in yourself. By envisioning the end result and telling yourself you can do it, you really can!
  4. Talk to other people about your resolution. You need support, and so does everyone else. Finding a support group or another person who has a similar goal will help keep you motivated and accountable for your goals. It’s well known that doing something alone is much harder and less likely to happen than with someone else cheering you on.
  5. Remember that it’s okay to fail. Say your goal was to eat a salad everyday for lunch for an entire year (unrealistic, but okay), and then one week into it you forget and eat a sandwich instead. Remember that it is not the end of the world; you are okay. Everyone is imperfect and sticking to something is hard, so it’s okay to mess up a little bit. New Year’s sets up the idea of goal making that you have “one shot” or it’s a bust, but this is so far from true. If you don’t make it perfectly the first time, its not over, it’s time to re-frame your goals! Garcia recommends that in the case of a failed goal, remember to “take a deep breath, slowly count to ten to jump start your brain’s critical thinking centers,” and ask yourself, “what caused you to slip? Was it within your control?” Then you reframe: set up another small goal and plan to make future adjustments to prevent similar issues from getting in your way.

Did you run more? Spend less? How many times did you call your grandma since you started this article? No matter the answer to these questions, remember that these changes are only possible if you really want them to happen.

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