Dr. Wendy Walsh: On the Monday after New Year's Day, millions of Americans will begin working on their New Year's resolutions. In the weeks of January, health club membership sales will soar, and the sale of "sinful foods" like chocolate and alcohol will decline. Yet despite all these great intentions, most New Year's resolutions will have been abandoned by February. But not all of them!
Some people will truly succeed in making lifestyle changes. Sticking to resolutions is easier for them because they have a biological predisposition to tolerate change. They are born to love change, adapt quickly and seek new experiences, while others are predisposed to do things the way they've always been done. Psychologists who've studied behavioral change have come up with a few factors that increase your chances for success.
Eight Factors that Help a Resolution Stick:
1. A desire to change. Change must come from inside yourself, and you must be in a state of readiness. It does no good if it comes from pressure by your spouse or best friend.
2. An ability to change. You must have the tools and skills -- i.e., if you're illiterate, no amount of desire will help you open the book you've been meaning to read. So prepare yourself for your New Year's resolution by acquiring the skills you need to succeed.
3. A supportive environment. Do other people want you to change? If you are going to run up against friction from your loved ones, in addition to your own internal naysaying voices, you reduce your chances of succeeding. Move away from nonsupportive people. It's part of every drug and alcohol rehab program: Don't hang out with druggies and bartenders. If you want to lose weight or save money, forgo outings with spenders and eaters. It's that simple.
4. Confidence. Studies on change show that those who truly believe they can change, do. Doubters will more likely fail. Believing you can change encourages commitment to the process and enhances the likelihood of success.
5. Instant feedback. We've all heard that small, incremental changes are best because they feel less painful and inconvenient. But sometimes BIG changes work better because the immediate environmental feedback is so positive. A sudden weight loss, for instance, brings compliments and better-fitting clothes -- which in turn inspire people to continue changing. If you want to kick off a savings program, start with a big deposit. A hefty nest egg will inspire you to sit on it!
6. A time commitment. New behaviors must be repeated over and over before they can become habits.
7. Frequent rewards. Reward behaviors, not results. If you stayed on a 1,500-calorie-a-day diet all week and have promised yourself one dessert on Friday night, give yourself the reward even if you haven't lost the three pounds you intended to lose. Remember to give yourself small rewards instead of a pass or fail grade.
8. Self-forgiveness. If you "fall off the wagon," look at it as an important part of change, not a permanent setback. Nobody gets it right the first time. It is important to get back to your positive behaviors and not beat yourself up. Feeling like a failure will make you one. Feeling like a champion will help you win.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and her area of interest is attachment theory -- a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental-health concerns, including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|