Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together, and it is the start of the holiday season. For most people, the holidays also include enjoying a lot of food (like turkey, pie, and cookies) and drink (like pumpkin spiced lattes, hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, and winter ales). For many, late November and the month of December equate to binge eating, followed by January 1, the time to make a New Years Resolution. For many, the first thing that comes to mind is losing that extra weight we gained since Thanksgiving!
An article by Leo Widrich, “The science of New Year’s Resolutions: Why 88% fail and how to make them work” (http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-new-years-resolutions-why-88-fail-and-how-to-make-them-work) discusses the difference between creating new habits versus creating a New Year’s Resolution. Widrich identifies that when people create a New Years Resolution they tend to pick an abstract goal, “The problem is clear, any abstract goal you have, that is not tied to a specific behavior is near impossible for your brain to focus on. Making it “instinctual”, which is the crucial aspect that will help you achieve any new habit, is missing in 90% of all New Year’s Resolutions, which makes them so likely to fail.”
Widrich sites that the key to a successful resolution is: to make a goal a habit first and most importantly, make it a tiny one (goal). Here is a list of examples on how Widrich translates four of the most common New Year’s Resolutions to tiny goals:
Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Only stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast
Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana
Resolution: Lose Weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up.
Widrich’s keys to success include:
Pick only one resolution
Take baby steps - make it a tiny habit
Hold yourself accountable for what you want to change: Tell others or write it down
Focus on the carrot not the stick - positive feedback and rewards increase your chances of success
In addition, a study by lifestyle magazine Psychologies questioned 2,000 people living in the United Kingdom about their New Year’s health resolutions. They discovered that 71% of the people surveyed had planned their New Years Resolution as early as the first week of November. 52% of the respondents said they would be focusing on weight loss, 43% mentioned they would be making changes to their general health, and 15% wanted to curb stress and anxiety in their daily lives.
So, why wait till January 1 to start your New Year’s Resolution / creating a new habit? Why feel guilty every time you eat one more holiday cookie? Instead, use the holiday season as part of your reward system. Reward yourself with a holiday cookie or a gingerbread latte after going to the gym, zumba class, or by just going for a walk.
Start your plan now and succeed rather than wait and increase your chances of failure!