The Christmas fudge and peppermint patties are hopefully gone by now, so how do you get back on track — especially if you’re still carrying some extra pandemic pounds? Resolving to lose weight and get fit is a popular resolution, but 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. If you want to increase your odds of success this year, here are some tips to help make your resolutions stick.

1. Commit to 30 Days

Consider the first 30 days as the foundation for creating a new habit. It takes time to make a new behavior stick, but you’ll increase the chances of achieving your new pledge if you commit to making it through these 30 days. Also, when making a New Year’s resolution, most people intend to follow through on it for 365 days and beyond, but if you concentrate all your efforts into these first 30 days, it may be seem more doable.

NOTE: If you heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, that is a myth.

2. Do It Daily

Once you commit to 30 days, do it EVERY day. Whatever your goal — whether it’s to go walk or eat 5 servings of vegetables a day — do it DAILY for the first 30 days. It’s easier to nail down the habit if you do it every day versus a few days a week. The goal is consistency.

3. Own It

Resolutions fail because they’re made based on what someone else (such as your spouse, doctor, or parent) is telling you to change. Be sure your New Year’s resolution is a goal YOU want to achieve. That is, it’s not based on what you “should” do, but instead, based on something you WANT to do.

4. Relish the Reward

Rewards are the end goal of every habit, so notice the reward. If your goal is to exercise for 30 days, then embrace how great you feel after you exercise — e.g., more energetic, less stressed, and proud of your accomplishment. When it comes to forming a new habit, you chase the rewards because they’re not only satisfying, they teach you which actions are worth repeating.

5. Be Specific

Resolutions fail because they’re too vague. For example, if you want to start exercising, schedule a specific time of day to do it, the place, type of exercise, and the duration or distance. You’ll be more likely to be consistent if you can monitor your efforts and measure the outcomes.

6. Keep It Simple and Realistic

Don’t make your new habit too complicated. Keep it simple and realistic. One reason resolutions fail is because you’re initially bubbling over with motivation and enthusiasm, and your goals become overly ambitious. Consequently, they’re not achievable or they’re too difficult to sustain. 

For example, you resolve to “jog every morning for an hour”, but you haven’t exercised in a year. Instead, walk for 20 to 30 minutes (or even 10!) and gradually increase the duration and intensity as the weeks go by. You want to be able to achieve your daily goal for positive reinforcement. Or if going for a bike ride on your favorite trail every day means having to disassemble and load your bike into your trunk, reassemble it when you get to the trail, then repeat the same process for the trip home, you may be less likely to keep up the bike riding if the task is too complicated to sustain.

Karen’s Fit Tip: Keep your energy up. The brain does not extinguish old habits (they’re always lurking in the background), and it doesn’t have to work as hard when the habit is old and well established, such as riding a bike today compared to when you first learned. That’s why it’s so easy to relapse. When you’re tired, your will wanes, which makes it easier to abandon your resolution and old habits to sneak back in. So be sure to eat well and get plenty of sleep during your first 30 days.

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