It'll come as no shock that over a third of us who made New Year's Resolutions have given up already. In six months, that bummer number will jump to 54 percent. By December 2016, only eight percent of us will have achieved our goals, the most common of which are weight loss, quitting smoking, and exercise, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
While it's disappointing to see the rate of success so low, it doesn't have to be this way. As a group, we have a tendency to see little failures as catastrophic ones. If we missed a day at the gym, the next day we'll look back and say, "I've already done it once, why not twice" and then three times, then a whole week goes by. Once we fail, we think we can't recover. And it derails us entirely.
Luckily, there are ways we can combat this fatalistic view on our faltering New Year's resolutions. The key is to maintain little goals to ultimately achieve a larger one.
Meditate (or Nap) to Stay Focused and Mindful
I've already sung the praises of napping, but science is also joining my chorus. According to Dr. David Wagner of the University of Oregon, getting enough sleep great way to steel your resolve. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, lower inhibition, and other nasty habits that will definitely break your resolutions. Unfortunately, many of us are not getting the seven to nine hours of recommended sleep a night. And nipping off work to power nap is near impossible.
While the logistics of getting a nap in for many 9-5 workers is out of reach for many people, meditating can be an at-your-desk event that takes up only a few minutes of your time. Using sites like Calm.com can make taking 15 minutes of your time to meditate as simple as a coffee break.
But the health benefits of meditation don't stop at just immediate mood boosters and stress relief. Research shows that prolonged and consistent meditation may actually change the brain physically. In a study of 100 people, the 50 who meditated over many years showed more folds in their outer brains than those who didn't. More folds in the brain are believed to be directly related with better abilities to process information. Meditation is a great habit that will keep you calm in the short-term and mentally fit for years to come, and can even help ease the task of maintaining your resolutions by improving willpower.
Desk Yoga for a Fitter You
Keeping fit in front of a computer screen is no easy feat. In fact, some scientists say sitting for 8 hours a day is worse than smoking. Humans didn't evolve to sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end. But the demands of modern life don't really consider evolutionary traits when you need to make a living.
- Seated Cat-Cow Pose: This pose will stretch your spine and deepen your breath - a great way to start a mini chair yoga session. Simply scoot your chair out a bit, place your hands on your desk, inhale deeply and arch your back as you look upwards, and then exhale as you round your back and look down towards your navel. Repeat, taking deep breaths 7-10 times!
- Seated Urdhva Hastasana: Simpler than its name, for this pose lift your arms upward, turn the palms of your hands to face one another, and reach as much as you can through your fingertips. Pretend as if you're grabbing for something above, stretching your right then left. This gives a nice deep side stretch to the left and right of your waist. Take 5 deep breaths and each time you inhale lift your hands a bit higher.
- Wide Leg Forward Fold, Seated: Place your feet on either side of your chair keeping your toes facing forward - you should create about a 45-degree angle with your legs. Gently roll forward and place your hands on the floor between your feet. Inhale and reach your chest forward, then exhale and try to release a bit further down. This is great for releasing your lower back, and stretching your glutes and adductors (inside of your legs).
- Seated Spinal Twist: Inhale as you sit up tall, then exhale and twist to the right placing your right hand on the back of your chair and your left hand on the outside of your right leg. On each inhale sit taller, lengthening your spine, and on your exhales twist a bit more. Take 5 breaths here and then repeat on the other side! This stretch is great for reaching your deeper back and ab muscles.
- Cactus Pose: Bring your palms together in prayer position, then lift them up until your elbows are parallel to ground. Exhale and open your arms wide coming into the pose. Keep your elbows raised and each time you inhale sit a bit taller. Each time you exhale press your elbows back and draw your shoulder blades together. Take 5 deep breaths here. This pose is excellent for stretching the upper back muscles and opening up the chest. Practice it at least once every day and you will definitely find yourself sitting up straighter.
Meal Swaps to Improve Your Diet
The key to improving a diet is adding variety and foods that fill you up, but don't increase the calories. High fiber foods, like brussel sprouts, raspberries (8 grams of fiber in 1 cup!), and broccoli, are a great way to feel satiated without loading up on calories. High protein snacks like nuts and homemade granola are also good for keeping you full for long stretches.
The important thing, though, is not setting an unattainable goal. One of the key reasons resolutions fail is because we set a lofty goal and then, when we think it's too out of reach, we give up on it. You wouldn't go to the gym and expect to lift 250lbs right off the bat, so why should you expect to maintain the perfect super-diet on the first week? It's better to set small goals and work your way up.
If you want to add healthier things to your diet, don't start out by switching whole hog to salads and boiled chicken breasts. Begin with replacing four meals a week with a healthy option you wouldn't normally eat. Then, with your sustained success, improve upon it by swapping in more healthy meals. Confession: I'm not a big salad lover. But I make a point of having a salad for lunch once a week.
Eventually, you'll have changed how you eat without ever "breaking" your diet. It will just be the way you eat!
Give Yourself A Hand
The point of New Year's resolutions is to make yourself a better you. That means breaking old habits and building new ones. However, that doesn't happen overnight. It requires dedication and commitment to seeing an improved you at the end of a long journey. You need to be ready to see failure on your path to success. Preparing yourself for setbacks will let you forgive yourself, continue on, and avoid giving up entirely.