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Setting & Keeping New Year's Resolutions

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Posted 9/13/2014

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A new year, a new you! Whether it's losing weight, eating healthy or quitting smoking, it's time to set (and try to keep) a New Year's resolution. Many people use the month of January to turn a new page, but unfortunately, most resolutions are abandoned by February. "It's estimated that 90 percent of people don't complete their New Year's resolutions," said Sharon Hammer, M.D., a psychiatrist with The Nebraska Medical Center. "It all comes down to planning and picking your goals. Look at it like a marathon, not a sprint." One of the main reasons people quit their New Year's resolutions is due to boredom. "Everyone has motivation right off the bat," said Kelly Fairbanks, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at The Nebraska Medical Center. "But, our brains get bored very easily with repetitive behaviors, so if you're setting the same goal every year, you're not going to achieve your resolution." Try these simple tips for successfully reaching your New Year's goal: 1.) Avoid Repeating Past Failures Don't make the same resolution year after year. "People get bored with anything they've avoided doing," said Dr. Hammer. "Be realistic and think outside the box. Try volunteerism, being mindful or being grateful. Spend fifteen minutes a day meditating. It's a journey of self-improvement. You'll have a better outcome." If you do decide to pick the same resolution, make sure you're taking a different approach than previous years. 2.) Pick Several, Smaller Resolutions Try making daily or weekly goals. It will create a cycle of energy to keep you motivated throughout the year. "If you have two or three things that you're working on, your brain is less likely to get bored," urges Dr. Fairbanks. "If you get bored with one of the goals, you can you can work on the other." 3.) Use Positive Language Don't focus on what not to do. Focus on the behaviors and actions you need to go through. "For example, people will say, 'I'm not going to smoke, I'm not going to eat fast food,'" explained Dr. Fairbanks. "But, your brain isn't processing the NOT, it's only processing the image of fast food or smoking. So, alternatively, you need to tell yourself exactly what you need to do, what you want to do. That is -- I'm going to eat healthy foods, I'm going to breathe clean air. Now you're programming a positive response from your brain." 4.) Use the Buddy System Find someone who shares your resolution. "Working together over the year is going to improve outcomes and make it more fun," urges Dr. Hammer. Write the resolution down, get a picture in your mind of what it looks like and make a plan of action. Discuss your goals with family and friends. 5.) Use Rewards to Stay on Track The best way to stay motivated is to give yourself a reward at each bench mark. "Rewards are extremely important," stresses Dr. Fairbanks. "As adults we fail to give ourselves rewards enough." Make sure the reward matches the outcome. For example, if your goal is to lose weight -- buy yourself a new swimsuit after losing 10 pounds -- don't go out and eat a carton of ice cream. 6.) Don't Beat Yourself Up If you have a few missteps along the way, don't get discouraged. "Get yourself back to focusing on what it is you want to focus on. What does it look like? Have a mental image in your head and get back on track," recommends Dr. Fairbanks. "Create sticky notes and put them around your house. Never lose sight of your goal." 7.) Start Now! Don't wait until New Year's Day to start your resolution. Begin immediately. "January first is an artificial start. Every day we wake up is a new day," said Dr. Hammer. "It all starts at the beginning. Think of something that will give you a moment of happiness."