The New Year is all about making resolutions. But while 45 percent of Americans say they usually make them, just 8 percent of Americans manage to keep them, according to recent data from University of Scranton researchers and the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Losing weight, getting organized, spending less and saving more are the top promises we make (and break) at the end of each year. Here are five tips for making New Year's Resolutions that you're more likely to keep.
Set achievable goals. Losing 25 pounds may not be within your control, but opting to eat more healthily can be. Getting a promotion may be up to your boss, but learning more transferable skills is something you can vow to do yourself. "Be real when you make a resolution," suggests Elisa Zied, a registered dietician and the author "Younger Next Week." Rather than commit to running a marathon, "Set yourself up for success and map out your course by making appointments with yourself to be active. If you treat your goals like set appointments, you're more likely to achieve them."
Reach out to others. Let your closest friends and family members in on your goals; they'll help hold you accountable, provide support when you feel your willpower starting to slip and serve as a sounding board when you need to figure out a problem. "Having a support network is crucial in achieving your goals," says Luke Landes of Consumerism Commentary.
Do unto yourself as you would do unto others. Yes, you read that correctly -- it's a twist on the Golden Rule, and something we tend to forget to do. "Consider resolving to treat yourself with just as much love and respect as you do your closest friends and relatives," Dr. Yoni Freedhoff writes at U.S. News & World Report. "Anytime you catch yourself beating up on your own normal human imperfections ... consider how you might counsel your loved ones were they in the exact same situation. Because you deserve to love and respect yourself too; no doubt, doing so will confer onto you tremendous health and life benefits."
Find ways to feel happier. Thousands of studies have shown that having an attitude of gratitude can make for positive change in your life. "Gratitude isn't passive reflection. It's active," says David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in Boston. "And it's not about the past. It's there to help direct our behavior in the future." At the very least, it can make you feel happier -- and there are real physical and emotional benefits to being more upbeat. "You're 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack, you get sick less often, and you can be a lot more productive at work," points out Nataly Kogan, founder and chief happiness officer at Happier.com, where community members chronicle their daily happy moments, no matter how small. With a little practice, feeling happy can become a habit (check out Kogan's 21-day Happier Courses for inspiration). And happiness is contagious. "If you're happier," Kogan says, "You'll make the people around you happier, too."
Forget resolutions; pick a theme instead. Tired of making the same resolutions year after year? Instead of focusing on "lose 10 pounds" or "hit the gym more often," pick a theme like "activity," "movement" or "fitness" and strive toward that instead. "The theme should be a word that resonates with you and embodies something that has been missing from your daily life," advises Melinda Johnson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Instead of defining specific behaviors that you want to do, you simply keep your theme in mind and allow your days to unfold from there."
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