New Year’s resolutions are fun to make. They are also easy to break. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says the key to setting resolutions that stick is to turn those resolutions into habits.
“Everyone is motivated when they first decide to make a New Year’s resolution,” said Klapow. “The problem is that you can ride the wave of motivation for only a short while. If you want to stick with your resolution, you’d better make it a habit.”
Klapow suggests the S.M.A.R.T. system, which consists of five tricks that can turn any resolution into a habit.
- Set specific goals
- Resolutions must be specific. Resolutions like ‘I want to be eat better’ or ‘I want to get fit’ are destined to fail. Instead, set a specific goal such as ‘I will eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day’ or ‘I will start walking five minutes per day and increase by one minute each week until I am walking 30 minutes per day.’
- Monitor your actions
- Keep track of what you are doing. Mark every workout on a calendar, and put that calendar where you can see it. The more you keep track, the more likely you are to continue with that behavior.
- Arrange for success
- Eliminate barriers. If you want to go to the gym in the morning, then lay your clothes out the night before and have the coffee and gym bag ready to go. If you want to reduce sweets, remove them from the house and office.
- Recruit a support team
- Research shows clearly that having others support you in your efforts will help you be a success. Ask friends and family members to provide support. Let them know they are critical to your success, and show them any progress you have already made toward your goals. Look for a workout partner.
- Treat your actions
- Behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to continue. Reward yourself for making your resolution a habit. Maybe it’s a low-fat ice cream; maybe it’s a movie — something that makes you feel good about your new habit.