With the new year, you may be itching to make some changes. And that’s completely normal. It has to do with what’s called temporal boundaries. These are societal constructs of time, such as calendar markings – like the beginning of a new week, month, or year. And we tend to look at these landmarks as a fresh start.
You may find that you begin each week with a new pep in your step. You’re going to spend less money. You’ll start off strong by going to the gym. No takeout until Friday!
Or you may find that you start the week off on a disappointing foot and it sets the mood for the entire week. Though it’s not actually that way, it is how we often view things.
Due to this, we set goals each time we enter a new year, referred to as “New Year’s resolutions”. Most common among these resolutions include eating healthier, losing weight, exercising, managing finances better, or quitting smoking.
Setting goals, changing habits, and establishing new routines for the new year is a good thing. Studies vary, with some finding that 55% of participants reported maintaining their resolutions, to only 12% saying they did. But even still, one study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that those who set these resolutions in the first place are 10 times more likely to actually change their bad habits – at some point – than those who don’t set these types of goals. [1, 2, 3]
So, this new year, maybe you have a goal you’d like to set or a habit you’d like to change. Don’t shy away from it! People may scoff at New Year’s resolutions, but don’t let them get in the way of your happiness.
Today, we have 8 ways for you to maintain your New Year’s resolution this year. Because we know you can do it!
1. Positive Reinforcements
Pursuing long term goals can be difficult when there is no motivation in the short term. Think of trying to motivate yourself to go for a run. In the short term, it’s a lot of work with little immediate reward. Though, in the long term, this run contributes to your regular running schedule, which over time contributes greatly to your health.
What you need to do in this scenario is make the run as rewarding as possible, without negating the run. If you’re looking to lose weight, a slab of cake after your run isn’t going to help your long term goals. You could reward yourself with an activity you enjoy – such as watching a TV show, playing a video game, or an inexpensive gift.
You could also create little “tokens” and put 100 of them in a jar, taking one out each time you go for a run. After you’ve emptied the jar, you can reward yourself with something a bit more pricey. This is more of a long term reward, but this can help you visualize your progress in the short term. You could also use these to create milestones along the way (eg. 25 tokens means you can get takeout at your favorite restaurant).
2. Positive External Factors
Another factor when weighing the short term against the long term is that… maybe the act of working toward your long term goal is just a bit of a drag. But what if you made it more desirable by modifying the activity?
A group of researchers out of the University of Chicago wanted to see what happened when they did just that. They introduced some positive external factors to a classroom of students – like music and snacks – and found that the students with these factors spent more time on class activities than the control group.
In a similar experiment, participants spent more time exercising when they were able to listen to music that they enjoyed. 
Changing aspects of your activities to make them more enjoyable can help establish routines and habits that better suit your long term goal and just make you happier to do the activity all around!
3. Detailed Implementation Intentions
Saying you’re going to exercise more this year is vague and often leads to a lack of commitment and results. However, saying you’re going to go for a 35-minute run every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after your 4:45 PM meeting through the park is much more concrete and likely to lead to results.
Establishing a time, place, and duration beforehand lends guidance to your action execution.
A study from the United Kingdom found that participants were significantly more likely to follow through with their workout plans if they employed detailed implementation intentions. Of those who set these intentions, 100% exercised at the location they planned, 97% exercised at the intended time, and 88% exercised on the planned day. Researchers concluded that implementation intentions effectively produced lasting behavior change. 
Whether it’s financials, dieting, or exercising – be sure to create a detailed plan of when, where, and how.
4. Stay Focused
A trap some may fall into while creating a New Year’s resolution is that they create more than one. It’s fine to have more than one goal, but the risk here is spreading yourself too thin.
If you have multiple goals, choose one to focus on first. Ideally, it will be the simplest goal to achieve. Checking one goal off the list will leave you feeling more motivated to move on to the next one.
Additionally, focusing on one behavior first (finances, health, career) is more likely to lead to long term success, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). 
5. Start Out Small
When you picture your goal in your head, it’s glorious. You’re a marathon runner showing no sign of fatiguing as you pass the finish line. But it’s critical to understand that the lead up to that moment is going to be a lot of hard work, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.
If you’ve decided you would like to run a marathon, but you’re not a runner, you can’t start out running 20 miles every day. You’ll burn out way too quickly. Start off by going on short jogs a couple of times a week. Then slowly go for longer, more frequently.
This goes hand in hand with your detailed implementation intentions outlined above. Begin your plan with small, achievable steps that are unique to you and your situation. A drastic lifestyle change too quickly is an easy way to derail your plans.
You can run a marathon. You just need to work your way up to it.
6. Change Is A Process
It can take longer than you may think to set in a new habit or routine. Or to kick an old habit or routine. Those bad eating habits may have developed over the span of years. It’s unrealistic to expect them to be gone and replaced by February.
When you’re striving for these types of goals that require a lifestyle change, you will likely encounter some one step forward, two steps back scenarios. And that’s completely okay. One misstep, bad day, or “failure” does not define your entire journey toward your goal.
In fact, it would be strange if you had zero setbacks along the way.
Understand that this lifestyle change is a process and will come with a range of obstacles. Overcoming and learning from them is just part of the journey.
7. Get Support
A great support system can go a long way. Join a group – online or otherwise – with similar goals as you, or find a friend in your life with whom you can share the goal. Having a goal buddy can keep you accountable and motivated. If you’re not feeling it one day, they can give you a pep talk, and vice versa.
Additionally, an experienced group – say, a running group – can lend you guidance and allow you to improve faster than you might on your own.
8. Keep A Journal
The reality is, your motivation may begin to dwindle by March. Or, it may even wear off sometime in January. In the first few days of making your resolution, you’ll still have that pep in your step regarding your goal. But after dragging yourself to the gym a few mornings in a row or not eating fried foods for a week, you may start to question your goals.
A journal can help you work through these difficult moments. It can also be something for you to look back and reflect on. If you start your journal on January 1st, you can detail your goal and how it’s going to feel when you achieve it. These pages can be looked back on when you need a boost of motivation. The early entries will also be a good reminder of how far you’ve come a few months down the road.
If you’re struggling, a journal can also help lend some perspective on why you may be having trouble – home life, work-life, etc. – and allow you to be easier on yourself.
Some goals are easier than others, but no matter what, sticking to them can be difficult. Just remember to keep your eye on the prize.
A major New Year’s goal for many involves health. As we age, our body not only loses nutrients faster, but also has difficulty absorbing them. This can have a detrimental effect on our overall health.
Start the new year off with nutrition that can actually make a difference.
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