By: Dr. David Prescott
Common Resolutions for 2011: According to a recent survey cited by Time Magazine, the recent worldwide economic recession seems to be impacting people's wishes for the New Year. Globally, 40% of people cited improving their economic circumstances as next year's goal. While many Americans share this goal, favorite U.S. resolutions included:
¨ Developing a healthy habit
¨ Losing Weight
¨ Getting Organized
Other common resolutions in our country include quitting smoking, developing a relationship, or getting more education/job qualifications.
Do Resolutions Help Us Change? Does setting any type of personal goal make a difference in whether or not we really stick to a change? Research on the impact of resolutions suggests that it does help! However, the majority of people who make some type of New Year's Resolution find that they don't make significant progress towards their goal. Psychologists have found that there are some very practical tips for improving your odds of meeting, or at least coming close to meeting, your New Year's resolution.
How Many People Stick to Their Resolution? More often than not, people do not stick to their New Year's resolution for very long. In one study over two years, about one in five people (20%) are able to keep to their resolution. On the other hand, three in five (60%) dropped their resolution within 6 months. In a recently reported British study, 22% of people reported that they were "very successful" in keeping their resolutions.
Interestingly, it doesn't appear to matter that much what type of resolution you make. For example, people who picked "weight loss" weren't more or less likely to keep their resolution than people who picked "improve my relationship." It also doesn't appear to matter whether you are male vs. female, or old vs. young.
Tips for Keeping Your Resolution: What does appear to matter is how you go about specifying your goal, and how you arrange your life to try to meet that goal. Some of the most helpful ways to keep a resolution include the following:
· Start Small - Just One Goal: It is usually easier to think of goals than to accomplish them. You have a better chance of progress if you stay focused on just one goal. Accomplishing one goal usually makes you feel better than falling short on many goals, no matter how worthy they are.
· Get Some Support from Others: While the motivation to change often comes from within, sticking to your goal in the long run usually requires some support from others. Share your goal with people who will keep you on track. Other people can provide encouragement, ideas, and emotional energy when you feel your motivation start to wane.
· Any Action leads to More Action: Doing something is, almost without exception, better than doing nothing when it comes to changing behavior. Changing one small behavior, for example exercising one time a week, usually leads to more and more change. Waiting until you are ready for the "big change" doesn't work as well as taking one small step.
· Plan for Relapse: People who make changes and stick to them often slip back to old ways at least once. Plan for this. How are you going to get back to your new ways? For example, if your goal is to exercise more, plan for the time when you miss your exercise. Think of ways that one missed day doesn't become two. Reward your success, and move on quickly from your disappointments
· Specify Your Goal: People who are successful in changing an unwanted habit are able to say exactly what it is they will do. People who are vague about their goal have less chance for success. Being specific also helps you actually make a start. Set a date and time to begin your change if possible. For example, saying that you want to "eat better" is a helpful, but setting a goal of eating one fruit and one vegetable at each meal is even better. Starting tomorrow! Or, if you want to get along with your in-laws better, deciding to send them a card once a month would be a more specific step.
For More Information:
Acadia Hospital Website: www.acadiahospital.org
American Psychological Association Web Site: www.apahelpcenter.org
TV5 Forecast Center
Healthy Living: New Year's Resolutions
By: Dr. David Prescott
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