Another New Year has sprinted past, holiday gluttony has come to a halt and the annual “get healthy quick” resolutions are rising from the ashes once again. You are ready to buckle down and get serious for 2014. OR ARE YOU?
Approximately half of the population makes resolutions every year, which amounts to roughly 158 million people dedicating themselves to changing their health for the better. We know from experience, however, that New Year’s resolutions rarely succeed.
There are several reasons why:
1. During the weeks leading up to the New Year, we tend to practice poor self-control in our eating and exercising habits. Once the ball drops and we shout “Happy New Year!” we assume we can just turn these unhealthy behaviors around. But without proper mental preparation, this year’s resolutions never have a chance.
2. We often associate resolutions with punishment for the unhealthy choices made during the past year. Where there is punishment there is resentment, and we soon revert back to our old habits.
3. We make the same resolutions every year and we’ve become accustomed to believing that “this year will be different.” But if we lack the willpower to overcome temptations that arise in our daily lives, we can’t expect to change our behaviors.
Scientists have discovered that our thought patterns create neural pathways in the brain that shape default behaviors and govern the choices we make. So getting rid of those pesky habits really involves changing the way we think all year ’round.
Instead of resolving to drop 20 pounds in the month of January, try setting smaller, more attainable goals. For example, try cooking at home more than eating out, choosing whole wheat bread instead of white bread, and cutting back on the times a week you eat dessert. Instead of resolving to hit the gym four times a week, try taking a walk after dinner with a family member or resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
Changing the way you think might be too difficult to accomplish in a single New Year’s resolution, but we all can incorporate a series of small changes that can produce big results in 2014.