Steps to making resolutions last

As the confetti falls, a kiss is received, a salud is made to the next 365 days and planning for the future.

Nancy Adams, associate professor of psychology at Marshalltown Community College, said more than half of American adults make at least one New Year’s resolution each year and the first step to keeping it is having the right mindset and being realistic.

“They should approach it with a sense of hope and realistic expectations,” Adams said. “It’s rather generic to say ‘I want to lose weight.’ You’re more likely to have success if you say, ‘I’m going to lose five pounds by Feb. 5.'”

The next step, she said, is to understand the reasoning behind the resolution.

“I think there is a saying, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living,'” Adams said. “An unexamined resolution is not likely to happen. If you’re not clear on why it is you want to lose weight or save the money, or quit a particular habit, you’re more likely to lose sight of it.”

Once the person understands the reason, she said they should remember it and think about it often.

“If they’re quitting smoking, it’s important to remind themselves they want to run the 5k with their grandchild,” Adams said. “Just keep those reasons front and center so they don’t forget why they are doing it.”

Adams said, it’s proven to make a difference if the person enlists the help of friends. She said the positive peer pressure from telling other people about it and getting their support tends to make a difference in terms of meeting goals.

“Let it be public,” Adams said. “Say to your friends at work, ‘I’m not going to be bringing in the donuts on Friday because I’m working towards a goal.'”

Acknowledge the small steps along the way and look back at the progress, Adams said.

“I think that often times people don’t reward the small steps that they’ve made along the way,” Adams said. “Or they don’t take a periodic review where you say, ‘Wow look at the progress I’ve made’ or even if I haven’t completely quit the unhealthy habits, ‘Look at how much less I’m engaging in it.'”

Adams says, lasting, effective change takes time and someone shouldn’t be derailed by an occasional set back.

“Celebrate the progress they are making,” Adams said. “Every step towards an unwanted behavior is a step towards who it is you want to be.”

Making New Year’s resolutions Adams says is an interesting social psychological event.

“It’s about the moment,” Adams said. “It’s about honoring and remembering the past and planning for the future, which is what resolutions are. I think it’s a collective, cultural opportunity to mark time with others and therefore, the plans you make become a bit more public, the expectations to make one is there.”