New Year’s resolutions tend to have a terrible conversion rate beyond the first few weeks in January, but experts have some tips for selecting the best resolutions for 2017 — and for keeping them.
The numbers around New Year’s resolutions are pretty grim. CBS News reported that 44 percent of people will make a resolution to better themselves in the new coming year, but only a small percentage of those will actually keep it — generally between 5 and 8 percent.
Nicole Gravanga, a doctor of neuroscience, told Medical Daily that the very nature of New Year’s resolutions can be difficult. People who resolve to lose weight, for example, may run into resistance immediately as they put on unfamiliar workout clothes and enter an uncomfortable setting like a gym — and then have to deal with some pain and discomfort from working out for the first time in a long time.
People making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight may really just want to find a way to be more comfortable within their own skin, Gravanga noted.
“To make significant changes in your life, you are going to have to get to the bottom of what you really mean when you say you want to get fit, spend more time with your family, or get a better job. What do those things mean to you?”
Gravanga wrote a step-by-step process of selecting the best New Year’s resolution that fits best with your desire. It starts with writing down or saying aloud what you want to change, then write what it means to have that part of your life changed.
The next step is to think about your “relationship to that meaning,” like your relationship to comfort if the root of our resolution to lose weight comes in your discomfort in your own body.
Once you’ve gotten to the root of what makes you want to change, you can make arguments for or against the idea in your mind.
“Let yourself make arguments. When you find yourself rationalizing, waving your hands, and defending your past choices, you are stepping into the kind of fertile ground that allows you to make a change. Go ahead. Keep trying to talk yourself out of it. Denial is a legitimate step in the process.”
The final step comes in addressing the “old sorrows, disappointments, and anger” that are attached to that argument, addressing and resolving the hangups that can keep you from reaching your goals.
And after you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, it can be difficult to stay motivated through setbacks and denial. Stephanie Mansour of WGN noted that it’s best to give yourself some rewards along the way to keep moving toward the goal.
“Reward yourself every time you hit a small goal,” she wrote. “Make your resolutions in bite size chunks rather than as big as a meal. Reward yourself with healthy things, like a massage or a more expensive gourmet salad (instead of making one at home).”
And Mansour added another tip for New Year’s resolutions — be willing to change. While your initial goal may be going to the gym three times a week, there could ultimately be different or more effective ways to reach a weigh loss goal.
“Be willing to course correct. If all else fails, look at the methods you’re using,” she wrote. “Weight loss is not once size fits all, and neither is health and fitness. Taking an individualized approach to your goals will make you even more successful because you’ll recognize that what works for someone else may not work for you, and you won’t feel like a failure and dejected.”
For those who need a bit more help picking their New Year’s resolution or sticking to it, NBC News has a list of the most popular resolutions every year. Among the most popular picks — getting healthier, learning new hobbies, and getting organized at home and work.
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