When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, people everywhere set out to make big changes. But while the resolutions might differ from person to person — some want to eat better, some want to feel less stressed, some want to become a 5-day-a-week exerciser — one thing tends to be the same: Most people will go back to their old ways before the end of January.
But what if this year is different? What if you manage to stick to your new habit, feeling healthier and happier all year long? You can do it — you might just need to tweak your strategy a bit. Here are five ways to help you do just that.
1. Put Pen to Paper
The simple act of writing down exactly what you want to change in the New Year is often enough to push you towards success, according to a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology. (It turns out recording your plan forces you to prioritize that goal.) Want to cook more instead of eating out so you can control the ingredients in your meals and make them as healthy as you want? Take time on Sunday and write down exactly what you’re going to make and when you’re going to make it. You just might find that it’s easier to kiss the drive-through goodbye.
2. Send Weekly Updates to a Friend
It might feel like bragging, but it’s important to keep someone up to date on how you’re doing. A study from Dominican University of California found that people are likeliest to reach their goals when they come up with specific steps they’re going to take and then — and this is key — report on their progress to a friend every week. Want to cut back on added sugar? Have a daily or weekly check-in with a good pal to tell her how you’re doing. The updates force you to be accountable to someone other than yourself.
3. Don’t Be Too Specific
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that if you give yourself a range — like to go to yoga three to five times a week — you’re likelier to re-commit yourself to the goal than if you’re more specific (I will practice yoga every day this week!). The range makes the goal feel more achievable and you feel a greater sense of accomplishment as you get close to the lower number in it.
4. Recruit Friends or Family to Work Together
Instead of going after your resolution solo, join forces with others and form a team — it can make hitting your goal easier than ever. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that you’re likelier to hit — and maintain — your goal if you go after it with three friends or family members. It makes sense: The team dynamic is motivating and makes it more fun. For example, want to add more vegetables to your diet? See which friends want the same thing and cook together or create an office potluck for vegetarian lunches. You can even throw a dinner party where everyone brings their favorite veggie-centric dish.
5. Give Yourself a Pep Talk.
It’s completely natural to worry you don’t have enough self-control to reach your goal. But you do! You just need to harness the power of your thoughts. Researchers at University of Toronto found that your inner voice can help you exert more self-control and avoid acting impulsively. The secret is having a little conversation with yourself in your head. Let’s say you walk into your office’s break room and see a huge pile of doughnuts that look a lot more tempting than the steel-cut oatmeal you made. You can talk yourself into choosing the healthier option by thinking “You are doing so well with your resolution to start the day with a nutritious breakfast! Keep going by eating your oatmeal.” That can be all the push you need to leave the pastries untouched.
Discover even more expert tips and tricks, recipe ideas and video how-tos: Eat Real Food®