10 Ways to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick
10 ways to stay strong in the face of tempting cupcakes, pricey shoes, and the urge to hit the snooze button instead of the gym.
6. Outwit Your Inner Rebel
To give your willpower some wiggle room, avoid making 100 percent resolutions. "Absolutes like 'I'm giving up all sweets' or 'I'll never use my credit card again' set you up to try to get around your own overly strict rules," says Connie Stapleton, Ph.D., a psychologist in Augusta, GA. Instead, try drafting more limited restrictions like "I'll have sweets only when I'm in a fancy restaurant."
7. Crank Up Your Greatest Hits
When you feel discouraged, remind yourself how much you've accomplished in the past, suggests Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D. "People beat themselves up about still needing to lose the baby weight or no longer going to yoga class. But they overlook the long list of things they have done that required major self-discipline, like building a nest egg or sticking with the computer training they needed in order to get a better job." Lombardo's advice: "Write down 100 things you're proud of, right down to 'I get out of bed when I don't want to.' It'll remind you how much willpower you really have."
8. Be Extra Nice (Or Nasty)
Do unto others, and you'll be doing unto yourself as well. In a Harvard University study, psychologist Kurt Gray, Ph.D., gave 80 participants a dollar, told half the group to keep it and the other half to give it to charity, and then asked all the volunteers to hold a five-pound weight for as long as they could. Those who had donated their buck to a good cause held the weight significantly longer than the "selfish" ones.
But imagining doing something not nice makes us even stronger. In another experiment, Gray asked participants to hold the weight while writing a story that involved their helping someone, harming someone, or doing something neutral. Those who envisioned dastardly deeds held the weight longer than the helpful ones, who in turn beat out the neutrals. Whether we're doing someone a good turn or a bad one, it increases our feeling of personal power, making it easier to stick with something uncomfortable, says Gray.
9. Use Your Senses
The primitive cravings center is highly susceptible to visual cues, explains Tufts University psychologist Christopher Willard, Psy.D. Draw on the strength of images by putting a photo of a thinner you on the fridge, or a picture of a Caribbean beach in your wallet near your credit cards to remind yourself of the vacation that you're saving for.
10. Finally, Get Out of Dodge
The same way a sprinter can tell when she doesn't have another 100 yards in her, "it's important to know when your resistance is tapped out," says Dr. Seppala. "Stress will wear it down. So will being hungry or tired." His advice for those times: Get away from whatever is tempting you until you've eaten and rested, which will give your willpower a fighting chance.