Save your efforts. Making New Year’s resolutions does not work for 92% of people. This practice has become a meaningless tradition that often does more harm than good. Researchers from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania suggest that only 8% of people who make New Year’s goals actually achieve them. The majority are left either frustrated or indifferent.
Have you ever wondered why the goal “lose weight” always makes it in your New Year’s list? Or, why you always come up with convenient excuses just so you can stick with your bad habits?
It’s not you, it’s is your brain.
A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes the brain an average of 66 days before it picks up new habits. The key is “repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context.” Unfortunately, most people quit their new diet or fitness regimen in less than a month.
In changing old habits to new ones, it is important to start with the mind. Here are 7 tips to help you be among the 8% who achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
Mind your mind
Your mind is the central processing unit of your entire being. While poets argue for the supremacy of the heart, science tells us that emotions are controlled by the brain’s limbic system. The mind is also involved in identifying old habits to forget as well as new addictions you are planning of getting into.
Listen to your mind and understand how it responds to thoughts, other people’s reactions, and certain environmental triggers.
Mindfulness is commonly associated with meditation. Dr. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, however, refers to it as “the essence of engagement.” Dr. Langer explains that mindfulness “is the very simple process of noticing new things, which puts us in the present and makes us more sensitive to context and perspective.”
When your mind is in the present, you are able to see things clearly and identify those that really matter to you.
Find your value and what you find valuable
Washboard abs may be essential for someone like Channing Tatum or your wannabe-model neighbor, but it does not mean that you should join the bandwagon.
With an ever-present mind, ask yourself: What do I value in my life? Is it a strong body or a Kardashian physique? Do you want a “work hard, party harder” lifestyle or something laidback that suits your personality?
Most New Year’s goals include attaining the dream body or learning to play a new instrument. Whatever endeavor you choose, remember that there is no standard formula for resolutions. The things you truly value should be your guide in making changes in your life.
Choose your battles wisely
Once you have identified the things you value, it’s time to create a game plan. List your goals according to priority. Then, choose the top five that you will commit to this year. You may increase this number as you go along.
A Nielsen research revealed that “stay fit and healthy” topped the list of New Year’s resolutions in 2015. If you share the same goal with 37% of the study’s American respondents, then you must prepare for the next task: mapping out a workable strategy.
Map out a workable plan
It may be too drastic to aspire wiping out 150 pounds of extra weight in three months or perfecting the Korean language in a year. Success is measured by the quality, not the quantity of changes that you make.
In losing some weight, hold off on the gym membership. Start with researching on how to get fit at home. It is easier to begin an exercise routine in places most accessible to you—at home, on the way to the office or around your neighbourhood.
If “save money” is also listed among your resolutions, home workouts is hitting two birds with one stone. You may use Youtube videos uploaded by gym instructors themselves, or download fitness apps in your smartphone. Start with regular walks inside your subdivision. If you live in a condo, there may be available gym equipment for owners and renters. The use of condo gym equipment such as treadmills and weights is part of the privilege of condo living.
Assess your lifestyle choices
It is a known secret that vices, especially smoking, is one of the hardest habits to ditch. There is no amount of government warning that can deter a person addicted to nicotine. This, however, is nothing but a road block that is not impossible to overcome. It is tough, but not impossible.
On a piece of paper, draw a two-column table and label each column with “pros” and “cons.” For each lifestyle choice, write down the advantages and disadvantages side-by-side. This will help you assess each item objectively.
It is possible that you are not yet ready to give up some of your nasty habits. Forcing a drastic change can only turn into a failure and cause frustration. You may, however, take baby steps that can still lead to the main goal (e.g. cutting down on your cigarette consumption, taking public transport to the office once a week, etc.).
Let go of “psychological time”
Spiritual teacher and bestselling author Eckhart Tolle explains the concept of psychological time as the “identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future.” This is one of the main stressors in life that causes anxiety and depression.
The idea of “letting go and moving on” is all about understanding the difference between clock time and psychological time. The former involves using time in the practical aspects of life such as making an appointment or planning a vacation. Clock time also means learning from the past, predicting the future through patterns, and immediately returning to present-moment awareness. Psychological time is making the past as part of the sense of self.
How to let go of your old habits? Turn psychological time into clock time.
Stop and smell the flowers
Regardless of your resolutions for this year, always remember to take a time off whenever you can. This is an opportunity for a quick assessment of your progress. Are you on track with your fitness goals? How is your body reacting after cutting back two sticks of cigarettes per day? Have you found new hobbies to try out?
Take time for a five-minute meditation each time. Breathe and enjoy your journey!