5 Tips: How to Keep Your New Year's Resolution

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Whatever you resolve to do differently in 2009, vow also to develop a strategy to make it happen. Otherwise, expect failure. So says John O'Neill, director of Addiction Services for The Menninger Clinic in Houston.

Whether it's to eat better, exercise more or stop smoking, O'Neill offers this advice: Before you commit to your New Year's resolution, take a look at what is motivating you to change.

"Do you really want to make the change? We often resolve to change something that we truly have no intention of changing," says O'Neill. "This can serve to be counterproductive and provide us a sense of failure. It is important to consider what we need to do to change and evaluate how we will do it."

He offers five tips to help you keep your resolution:

1. When we resolve to change, it needs to come with a strategy to change. Simply saying you want to do something does not fuel the change. Consider the strategy and outline the process of change that is simple and realistic.

2. Keep resolutions to a minimum. Attempting to stop or start multiple things may serve to overwhelm you and prevent you from doing any of them. "It makes good sense to keep change simple and to tackle one major change at a time," O'Neill says. "Having multiple resolutions may be too much for the brain to process and may make change difficult."

3. Develop accountability partners. Lock in someone who will supports your change. For example, if your goal is to exercise, you might want to hire a trainer. A study at McMaster University found that people who are new to an exercise activity perform better when their goals are set by a fitness professional rather than by themselves.

4. Appreciate the changes you are attempting and reward yourself throughout the process. If you are keeping goals simple, you can appreciate exercising more or better eating.

5. Studies show stress can kill you, so attend to it. Many resolutions center around things we do to help us cope with stress, such as smoking, drinking or overeating. When we change the behaviors, we need a new plan to manage stress.

"The process of thinking about change is critical to developing actual change. It is a process that is helpful no matter what time of year," O'Neill said.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2006 supports that notion. Researchers found that when people predict that they will do a socially good deed, such as recycling, the chances of them actually doing the good deed increases.

"A clear benefit of the self-prophecy technique is its simplicity: a question followed by a simple 'yes' or 'no' elicits behavioral change," researchers Eric R. Spangenberg and David E. Sprott of Washington State University wrote.

Live Science Staff
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