Unhappy woman showing celery and happy new year sign/resolutions

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If you’re anything like me and about 92 percent of the rest of the population in this country, you do a lousy job of sticking to your New Year’s resolutions. Even if you only make one!

That’s why I usually don’t make resolutions. But still, at the beginning of every year, I think about starting fresh, trying something new, or doing something a different way.

If I do decide to move ahead on something, I’m reluctant to call it a resolution. Somehow, it makes me feel as if I’m setting myself up for failure. (Secret #6 strikes a chord)

If you’re still on the fence about making a resolution or looking for a vote of confidence, I scoured the Internet and found some helpful tips for you and me.

What are the six secrets to keeping your New Years’ resolutions all year long?

1.) Write down or say out loud what you want to change about your life

This tip is the first in a series of steps recommended by neuroscientist and author Nicole Gravagna. She was responding to a question posted on Quora: Are there good rules of thumb as to what makes a good new year’s resolution?

Dr. Granagna says, “To make significant changes in your life, you are going to have to get to the bottom of what you really mean when you say you want to get fit, spend more time with your family, or get a better job. What do those things mean to you?”

Read all the steps Dr. Granagna recommends we take.

2.) Share your goals with someone who cares and believes in you

I came up with this tip after reading a post by fellow BDN blogger Jim LaPierre. Jim is a mental health therapist and addictions counselor and the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine.

Jim says people fail at keeping their resolutions because they try to do it alone.

“Anyone in addiction recovery can tell you that undertaking significant life changes without accountability, support, and encouragement is just this side of masochistic.”

Read Jim’s entire post on his blog Recovery Rocks: How to make your resolutions attainable and sustainable.

3) Start small 

This tip comes from the American Psychological Society. 

“Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.”

4.) Come up with environmental cues that will trigger your desired new behavior

In a Forbes article, Jeena Cho interviewed Professor Clayton R. Cook, Ph.D. He’s in the Department of Educational Psychology and College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Behavior-environmental cue relationships are critical to habit formation. Cook uses breaking the habit of nail biting to illustrate how to create a new behavior.

  1. If you want to give up biting your nails, first you need to become aware of when you’re prone to biting your nails.
  2. Embed cues during those time when you’re likely to bite your nails.
  3. Set up cues that signal or trigger an alternative competing behavior—that is, the new habit you’re trying to form.

For example, if you’re prone to biting your nails while driving, tape a question near the steering wheel that says “Do you know what’s under your fingernails?” This is your cue to, for example, begin chewing gum (alternative competing behavior).”

Read more in the original article The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep

5.) Make your goal specific

In 2016, Jen Boggs had one specific goal. She resolved to send someone a postcard every single day. While she missed a few days here and there, in the end, she sent 365 cards. She said it was a wonderful experience.

“It felt really good to send positive things to people I loved, people I liked, and people I didn’t know very well. Sometimes I sent a quote or a poem, but I often wrote about something I appreciated or admired about the person.”

You can read more about her project in my blog post How Jen Boggs managed to rock her 2016 New Year’s resolution.

One reason Jen was able to keep her resolution was that when she missed a day she didn’t beat herself up about it or give up her project altogether. She allowed herself some flexibility. Which leads me to secret #6.

6.) Can’t keep your New Year’s resolutions? Try being kind to yourself

In an article she wrote for The Conversation, Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, said

“I would argue the problem isn’t that we try and we fail — the problem is how we treat ourselves when we fail. I study self-compassion, and my research and that of others show that how we relate to personal failure – with kindness or harsh self-judgment – is incredibly important for building resilience.

From early childhood, we are taught how we must succeed at all costs. What most of us aren’t taught is how to fail successfully so we can change and grow.

One of the best ways to deal with failure is to have self-compassion.”

Read Dr. Neff’s article to learn what it means to have self-compassion.

So … as we all move through 2017, maybe instead of expecting to fail at our resolutions (or anything) we should believe in ourselves and if we falter — which we will — be kinder to ourselves.

Speaking of kindness, take a moment to read this post by another fellow BDN blogger — Roxanne Jones, who writes Boomer Haiku.This baby boomer’s got one word for 2017.

If you made any, what are your resolutions this year? Will you use any of these tips? Do you have some of your own to share?

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