Did you sound in 2013 with a desire to lose weight, work out more, and quit smoking? Congratulations – especially if you haven’t quit already. Studies say that some 65 per cent of people who make New Year’s resolutions give up all too quickly. Luckily, science can explain this propensity for failure, while also helping those who genuinely want to achieve change to successfully do so.
Hone Your Sense of Self-Discipline
When taking a resolution to change for the better, a lot of people fail because they are insufficiently skilled at understanding the inner workings of their brain, says Harvard Med psychiatry expert Joseph Shrand. According to Shrand, self-restraint is located in the frontal, rational part of the brain. In other words, it is governed by the most vulnerable and recently evolved part of the brain. Meanwhile, pleasure, ruled over by hormones such as dopamine, oxytocine and adrenaline, is situated in the brain’s most primitive part – one which has been rewarding humans for millions of years for giving into cravings and desires. As such, those determined to make their resolutions stick should understand that, in a certain sense, they are truly rewiring their brains, while also accepting that the fight, albeit a good one, is not going to be a pushover.
Segment Your Goals
One self-help piece of advice that’s been thrown left and right for as long as cognitive behavioral therapies have been around is that New Year’s resolutions often fail because people tend to think in black and white, ‘all or nothing’ patterns. The best way to prevent failures such as resuming smoking, right after you said you’d give up for good is, of course, not to decide you’re giving up for good. This might seem somewhat counterintuitive, but the American Psychology Association says one should always start small.
If smoking is your (not so) secret vice, perhaps resorting to nicotine replacement therapy and gradually decreasing the amount of nicotine you inhale each day would be a better way to go about your resolution. Nicotine patches and nicotine gum both come in several variants, with different amounts of nicotine included; electronic cigarettes from Blu cigs emulate the very experience of smoking via a device that resembles a nicotine cigarette. Such devices allow the future non-smoker to start out with a strong nicotine-containing cartridge then work your way to freedom by decreasing the nicotine concentration.
There is a fair amount of guilt in everyone and trying to stick to a goal such as a more active lifestyle, only to subsequently fail will only allow that sense of guilt to take over. According to a recent British study, most New Year’s dieters will give up only fifteen days into their new lifestyle. Acclaimed British fitness coach James Duigan says the best way to avoid complete failure is to deny oneself the accompanying sense of doom and gloom that comes along with it. ‘Falling off the wagon’ by overindulging in non-healthy foods or missing out on a day’s work-out may feel like the end of the world – when in actuality they are nothing more than just that: a singular occurrence, controlled solely by the dieter herself, and her will to turn her life around. One mistake needn’t be more than that, says Duigan, in a quest to change one’s lifestyle for good, not just for a matter of weeks.