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Health & Balance

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.
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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.

Write Your Ticket to Success

People who put their goals on paper are significantly more likely to achieve them than are those who merely make mental vows, research from Dominican University of California has shown. What's also key: posting your goal in places where you will see it often, says Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., of Hazelden. "Your will matters most the moment you make a resolution — and you'll want to be able to recapture the intensity of that moment again and again." Share what you've written, too: The Dominican study found that those who told friends or family about their goals did better than those who didn't, and people who e-mailed their support team weekly progress updates did best of all. Social approval — as in "You look great!" — gives your brain a surge of soothing oxytocin, explains Joseph Shrand, M.D., of Harvard.

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