Making Resolutions Stick … Past January

Making Resolutions Stick … Past January

Every year since fifth grade I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to stop biting my nails, but today when I looked down at my hands, the nails were bitten down to the skin. It’s a common experience: making a resolution and sticking with it for a little while, only to lose your momentum. The goal often fades away in the chaos of daily life.

According to a study by Drives Research, only nine percent of people who make resolutions follow through with them for the whole year. Many people, myself included, don’t complete them because it is difficult to fit a new habit into your life.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is one that many people feel a societal pressure to participate in. This pressure often results in feelings of guilt if they are unable to achieve the goals they set or if they don’t make any goals at all.

Not completing a resolution is understandable, and some roadblocks are unavoidable. However there are ways to address some of those challenges.

For example, a helpful habit-building technique is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The purpose of CBT is designed to help people learn to manage their problems by changing their behaviors and thought processes. The methods taught in CBT are helpful in many areas of life, beyond just maintaining a resolution.

Step One: Care
The first and most important part of making any change to your life is that you have to want to do it. You must have motivation to put in the effort. If gaining the motivation to change feels impossible, make a list of pros and cons for your resolution, and get detailed. Explain how this will make your life better.

Step Two: Break Apart the Task
What often prevents me from even starting projects is that they feel too lofty and overwhelming in my mind. CBT taught me to break big goals into small, specific pieces that I can clearly visualize how to complete. Many people make vague resolutions at the New Year, like “be more healthy” or “spend less money.” The issue with general phrasing is that it makes the goal far less concrete in your mind. Change it to a very specific thing. For example, change “exercise more” to “run for 5 minutes every day,” so that you actually know what you need to do.

Step Three: Reward Yourself
Once you achieve one of these small manageable goals, make sure to reward yourself in some way (that isn’t counterproductive). This could be as simple as congratulating yourself, but any type of reward creates a positive association in your mind.

Step Four: Keep Doing It
It’s important that when you are starting something new that you keep doing it to strengthen the mental pathways. This is difficult at times, but that’s why continuing to repeat the habit matters even more.

As we move through 2024, remember that your resolutions are your own to make and to achieve.

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