As New Years Eve approaches, people start making resolutions that can help them in 2016. But most resolutions fail, because people just don't start following their self-promises because the change is too difficult, or they don't continue to keep up the habit they committed to.
In fact, research has shown that only about 3/4 of people who make resolutions actually keep them for over just one week! At two years only 19 percent are keeping the resolution they made. And the average number of slips (temporarily not keeping the resolution) over the two years is about one slip every two months for each person still keeping the resolution.
The most common resolutions are to lose weight, to exercise more, to improve finances, or to stop smoking. And making a resolution is really useful. Success at six months occurred in about half of people who made an actual resolution, versus only four percent of people who just intended to make a change later but did not actually make a resolution at New Years. That's over 10 times greater success if you just make that resolution! So it helps to just start, not to wait (that's the source of the punned title Start Wars if you hadn't noticed).
Starting is very hard for many people. Procrastination is a common human trait. So making a commitment to start is one of the best gifts Santa can bring during this season.
Since most of the usual resolutions deal with breaking old or forming new habits, how long does it take to get a habit to stick? Data has shown that if a habit will be successful, it will take one to eight months to become automatic. So it will help to have as much help as possible to keep your eye on the goal for a longer period of time. Also, occasionally having slips is common, even if the habit becomes automatic.
So here are Dr. Cary's tips for making your resolutions this year (you can even start doing it before Star Wars appears on December 18).
• Start now, not later, and write your resolution down, on paper and on your smart phone.
• Start small, take baby steps, so that you can actually achieve success. Try changing only one behavior at a time so you are not overwhelming your self control. If you are trying to start a habit, exercise for example, start at 5-15 minutes daily, not more.
• Slips are common so do not feel guilty and do not give up.
• Keep a diary, in writing or on your computer or smart phone, of how well you are doing.
• Support helps, particularly after six months. So share your resolution with family and friends and even join a support group if one exists to get the most outside help possible.
• Your physician can be your best partner for resolutions that involve health habits. Talk frankly with your doctor and get help from the physician. For information on how to discuss health habits and disease prevention, see the tips in my book Surviving American Medicine.
• Get reminders sent to you. Some reminder programs are available as apps, but family can also help.
• Give your self a reward for keeping the resolution on a regular basis, monthly perhaps.
• Try to realize what triggers your slips (stress, or friends' behavior for examples) and avoid them.
Let your 2016 be a good one. And may the force (self control, of course) be with you!