Make those resolutions stick

Maybe you plan to ring in 2019 with a new resolve to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more or not sweat the small stuff. Maybe these resolutions sound familiar—maybe just like the ones you made last year.

So how can you ensure that your determination to get healthier in 2019 sticks around past Valentine’s Day? According to Harvard Medical School, it’s by creating new habits. Of course, a new behavior won’t become automatic overnight, but you may enjoy some of its benefits fairly quickly. So, keep nudging yourself in the direction you’d like to go and try the following four tips to help you create long-lasting change.

  1. Dream big. Audacious goals are compelling. Want to compete in a marathon or triathlon? Lose 50 pounds or just enough to fit into clothes you once loved? With perseverance, encouragement and support, you can do it. An ambitious aim often inspires others around you. Many will cheer you on. Some will be happy to help in practical ways such as training with you or taking on tasks you normally handle in order to free up your time.
  2. Break big dreams into small-enough steps. Now think tiny. Small steps move you forward to your ultimate goal. Look for surefire bets: Just getting to first base can build your confidence to tackle—and succeed at—more difficult tasks. Don’t disdain easy choices. If you start every plan with “Make a list,” you’re guaranteed to check one box off quickly. That’s no joke: A study on loyalty programs that aim to motivate consumers found giving people two free punches on a frequent-buyer card encouraged repeat business. So break hard jobs down into smaller line items, and enjoy breezing through the easy tasks first.
  3. Understand why you shouldn’t make a change. That’s right. Until you grasp why you’re sticking to old habits and routines, it may be hard to muster enough energy and will to take a hard left toward change. Unhealthy behaviors like overeating and smoking have immediate, pleasurable payoffs as well as costs. So when you’re considering a change, take time to think it through. You boost your chance of success when the balance of pluses and minuses tips enough to make adopting a new behavior more attractive than standing in place. Engaging in enjoyable aspects of an unhealthy behavior, without the behavior itself, helps too. For example, if you enjoy taking a break while having a smoke, take the break and enjoy it, but find healthier ways to do so. Otherwise, you’re working against a headwind and are less likely to experience lasting success.
  4. Commit yourself. Make yourself accountable through a written or verbal promise to people you don’t want to let down. That will encourage you to slog through tough spots. One intrepid soul created a Facebook page devoted to her goals for weight loss. You can make a less public promise to your partner or child, a teacher, doctor, boss or friends. Want more support? Post your promise on Facebook, tweet it to your followers or seek out folks with like-minded goals online.
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