Whether you resolve to lose 20 pounds, improve a relationship with someone, try to notice the simple things, or to stop overspending, success can be found in resolving to do such things in the new year.
Terry Eckmann, professor of physical education at Minot State University, has some strategies and ideas for people to successfully keep their resolutions for the new year.
The most common New Year's resolution that people make, according to Eckmann, is weight loss, partly because the average person gains 10 pounds between Halloween and New Year's Day because those holidays are mainly centered around food and drinks. Other common resolutions that people make are improving relationships, spending more time with family and friends, getting out of debt or to stop overspending, she said.
The Minot Family YMCA, shown in this photo, will quite possibly see an increase in memberships come Jan. 2. The most common New Year’s resolution that people make is to lose weight, which in turn leads to starting an exercise program. While a majority of resolutions result in failure, there are strategies for people to use in being successful with their plans of action.
With a resolution to lose weight, there's also the necessity of starting an exercise program, Eckmann noted. Typically, it is five to six weeks before people fall back into old habits, she said.
"On Jan. 2, people try to drastically change what they do and start an exercise program that's five or six days a week," Eckmann said. "It's too high of intensity, too long and too many times a week. There's a feeling of frustration because the person doesn't see change as quickly as they'd like."
There are some strategies for sticking to that new resolution, however. The biggest strategy is to take baby steps - small changes that you can live with.
"Like instead of drinking three cans of pop, cut back to one, watch portions and just cut back a little at a time," she suggested. A strategy for weight loss, Eckmann said, is to eat less and chew more. She recommended chewing every bite 30 times, but the best habit is to eat slow. It takes four to six weeks to make a new habit a habit, she noted, but it also depends on how long you have been doing a habit.
When setting a goal, there are some tips that Eckmann said might help people in their success rate. Those tips include being flexible, being specific by setting a date, being realistic with your goals, having a support system and tracking your goals and rewarding yourself. Other tips are to know that you'll have a bad day and will fail. Forgive yourself, fix the spot where you went off track, and refocus, she said. It's also important to identify obstacles, like family and work commitments or self-defeating behaviors. In addition, Eckmann cautioned people not to fall into the all-or-nothing attitude.
"As soon as the person has a bad day or weekend, they think their resolution is a failure and give up," she said. But bad days happen, and it's a good idea to be prepared with how you deal with pitfalls.
Change is a challenge that has a lot to do with the brain, Eckmann said.
"We become creatures of habit because what we do is patterned into brain connections," she explained. Often times, we do what is easiest, Eckmann said.
"What we know, believe or do is something the brain has to reprogram," she said. "If you do something all the time, there's a pathway in the brain, like a path through the grass."
As a result, you would have to do the same action over and over again in order to make new pathways that would replace the old ones.
There are also several stages of change, which are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination, Eckmann explained. Pre-contemplation is where someone else is thinking about you and tells you their concerns. Contemplation has to do with realizing that a change needs to be made, and preparation is what you're planning to do and setting goals. The preparation stage is important, Eckmann noted, because if you decide to do too much, there will be less success. The action phase is where you start going to the gym or doing the thing you have resolved to do, and maintenance has to do with keeping up with the new routine, she said. Maintenance is the hardest stage, especially with weight loss, because weight will tend to plateau at a certain point. Termination is when you're not thinking about the old habit anymore, she said.
Most New Year's resolutions are made three years in a row, Eckmann said. On the other hand, people who take action and fail within a month are twice as likely to succeed over the next six months, she said, as opposed to people who take no action at all. Gym memberships, Eckmann added, tend to increase in January, March and September. The January increase is due to the new year, while the increase in March is when people tend to realize that beach weather is approaching and they want to get in shape for the summer, she explained. September's increase in gym memberships has to do with school starting and getting back into a routine.
People make resolutions for the new year partly because of tradition and in part because it's the beginning of a new year. Usually people are busy with life events during the holidays, and that leads to wanting to make a change, she said.
"They want the new year to be different," Eckmann said. "If the previous year wasn't good, then they want the next one to be better, or they want to continue the previous good year into the next."