Welcome to 2015. Have you made your resolution yet? Have you broken it yet? Every year, about 45% of Americans make a resolution — but a third of those goals won't make it through the end of January. So, if you're feeling like your resolutions aren't going to stick, you're probably in good company. A lot of it.
To help you on your quest to becoming a better you, we've improved a few of those commonly made (and broken) resolutions by tweaking them slightly — and adding some science-backed tips for making these revised goals actually stick. Sometimes, all you need is a little creative reengineering.
Ah, yes, the old "lose five pounds." It's a classic resolution, but one that's rarely kept. So, rather than making a weight-based goal, try finding ways to make eating well and working out regular parts of your life — without beating yourself up if you don't make it happen 100%.
For instance, try resolving to cook at home more often. One study showed that even just making dinners yourself twice a week could be enough to make you choose healthier options everywhere. Also, study participants were more likely to lose weight on this plan — whether or not that was one of their explicit goals.
If you're set on ramping up your fitness habits, you might be interested to know that you can get more out of a workout by timing it right: By doing cardio in the morning and saving strength-training for the afternoon, study participants saw improved sleep patterns. Who can say no to better sleep?
Another study showed that just one 45-minute workout session can have long-term beneficial effects on your health. This means you shouldn't get discouraged if you can't find a daily time slot to suit your schedule; any exercise is better than none.
Try substituting this resolution with "stop beating self up for procrastinating." Research says that just forgiving yourself for putting things off in the first place will make you much less likely to fall back into that pattern again.
There's also research suggesting that some procrastinators may be "self-handicapping." Basically, this means we're sort of intentionally shifting blame from ourselves to our circumstances. This way, if we succeed, we did so "against the odds" (go us!); if we fail — well, we "didn't have that much time anyway." In the bigger picture of self-worth, this thought process kind of makes sense, but in the short-term it doesn't help.
If any of this applies to you, you might want to get to the root of the procrastination issue: Out with the perfectionism and in with the self-compassion. To examine these concepts, try out a few mindfulness-based exercises, or chat with a counselor.
This is a tough one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is responsible for over 480,000 deaths per year, including the 42,000 that can be attributed to secondhand smoke.
Quitting smoking is definitely a good resolution to have, and 70% of surveyed smokers say they want to stop. However, research shows that between 60 and 90% of smokers end up relapsing within the first year. The good news, though, is that after two years, that rate declines sharply — 80% of long-term smokers stay quit after this mark. This suggests that the first thing hopeful quitters will want to to do is expand their time frame a little.
Also, other research has shown that a few things need to be present for a quitting plan to take hold: counseling (which can take many forms), identification as a smoker (check in with your doctor), and medication (those lozenges can definitely help). The most important one of these is often the counseling; although it's a pretty general idea, having someone to make a commitment with, who will review your past quitting experiences and plan ahead with you, can make all the difference.
So, vowing to go cold-turkey by the end of the week might not be the best option. But, change that to "quit smoking for two years with the help of a therapist" and you've got a much better shot at following through. Along those lines, the CDC recommends writing out your reasons to quit and calling their 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline for any assistance you may need along the way.
Research says this can start with just not responding to work emails when you're not at work. Of course, the specifics of your job will determine whether or not that's actually possible, but by setting specific times to check your email — and time limits for responding — you can cut down on a lot of offsite worrying and focus on the people in front of you.
Another study found that even if we aren't using our phones, just having them in sight will make us that much more stressed. Translation: Spending more time with your loved ones could start with putting away that brick in your hand. Yes, right now.
When we try to save money, it's tempting to go overboard and then, inevitably, backslide into our old spending patterns. The best advice is usually to build up your funds by saving little, often, and without thinking about it. This means that, like so many of these resolutions, saving big means making small changes that fit seamlessly into our lives.
In a 2011 paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers laid out a theoretical framework for actually feeling better about spending less. They suggest that by changing the way we spend, it's possible to get more rewarding feelings from being thrifty than from throwing our cash around. For instance, we can opt for lots of smaller pleasures in life, instead of a few big ones — and, if they're experience-based (such as going to a cheap concert on your corner), all the better. Research says experiences make us happier and don't have to come with a hefty price tag.
Often, if we try to make a giant goal and stick to it (or we spend too much time fantasizing about achieving that goal without doing anything about it), there's a bigger chance that we'll get right back into our old habits. You think, Well, now I've messed up my budget once, so there's no point in keeping it up. By breaking those big goals into smaller ones, we're less likely to get freaked out by them — or by straying from the plan here and there.
Which makes our improved monetary resolution something along the lines of "spend what works for you, save little bits regularly along the way, and indulge in experiential gifts." Here's to a happier, healthier, and maybe even wealthier 2015.