New Year's Resolutions: How To Keep Them Alive

By Jessica Alpert

You know the drill. Lose weight. Save more money. Keep in better touch. Or as one of my Facebook friends recently announced "make a new piece of clothing every month."

I hate the gym in January since it's crowded to the gills with exercise hopefuls.  By February, the regulars reign again and the wait for the treadmill is nonexistent.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology from researchers at the University of Scranton found that 45 percent of us made New Year's Resolutions in 2014--and almost 90 percent of us failed at keeping them.

Maybe not a huge surprise but what can we do to maintain those good intentions?

Dr. Philip Levendusky, Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Psychology Department at McLean Hospital, recently shared some tips.

First, is change even necessary?  Do you already work out three days a week and now you're promising to do six? It's a worthwhile goal but acknowledge what you already do. "We don't always have to be striving for perfection or feel like we're a work in progress," Levendusky writes.

Next, remember that small changes can make a big impact.  Do you want to be a better partner? Instead of creating a list of 10 promises, start with something actionable and attainable--like being a better listener during dinner.  According to Levendusky, "building goals that can have an immediate and positive response," may actually help keep you on track beyond the month of January.

What about incentives? If you are really serious about eating healthy, don't just focus on eliminating french fries from your vocabulary.  Set-up some fun reward if you keep it up.  Maybe something to celebrate that success — new clothing? a massage? vegan fries?!


So about my Facebook friend who wants to knit her own clothes? Hats off, says Levendusky.Announcing your intentions publicly makes you more likely to keep them.

He writes about one experience at McLean "in which several teams were put together and their goal was to see which team collectively lost the most weight. There was a buzz for several months and people were all excited about it, and some people did better in that exercise than they had ever done before with a New Year's resolution or the equivalent of setting a goal."

Finally, think outside the box.  Resolutions don't have to be black and white.  So you ate some french fries on July 4th?  Doesn't mean you failed. Keeping results achievable makes you less inclined to quit. Just re-commit yourself on July 5th. "That all-or-nothing mindset is often the Achilles' heel of making a resolution or setting a goal," writes Levendusky.

So do you have any tips for keeping your resolutions alive? 


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