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Old Habits Die Hard – The Case of New Year Resolutions

It is a common perception that breaking habits is difficult. In January, this problem is even more accentuated when people are making resolutions in order to change their lives. While most common promises aim to enhance the quality of life (to improve health/self-care/social relations), most of them do not last until the end of January. In this article, we will list a few tips on how to make a better commitment to your resolutions.

From a psychological point of view, habits are automatic behaviours triggered by the environment, therefore a new habit needs a new environmental trigger. The difficulty here is that it needs to be continuously repeated so that the new behaviour should become automatic, otherwise, the change will wear thin soon. Repetition can be achieved by writing a journal about your resolution, or just leaving a memo somewhere visible; but an accountability partner or a group can also help with reaching the set target – this way you do not just keep each other in line but can share your experiences as well.

One of the most important elements of staying committed to your resolution is if you aim for small changes. When setting a goal, you should not aim high but still be as specific as you can, since the clearer the objective, the easier it is to commit yourself to it. Small changes can be cost-effective as well, for example, you do not have to get a gym subscription to exercise more, you can find a lot of useful videos and guides online to keep your workout varied and still productive. If you decide to develop yourself in smaller steps, it is also easier to adjust your intentions in case you face some difficulties.

Self-motivation is just as important. Resolutions require less effort if they are inspired by a proper reason and not just some general sentiment; also, a resolution with emotional attachment provides some “added value” to your commitment. You should, however, keep in mind that there will always be tough moments or situations; you can easily overcome these if you prepare yourself for such instances. It is also worth mentioning that an occasional relapse is a normal part of habit formation, so do not be hard on yourself if there are days when you simply give in to your old self.

Still, resolutions are long-term commitments, and their objectives are reached gradually, step by step. Therefore – and it is crucial – do not regard it as a failure if you fail one or two steps or even your whole resolution falls through; consider it as part of the learning curve and, if possible, re-evaluate and adjust your goals. All in all, the main reason behind your resolutions is to enhance your life, and while they do indeed require patience and perseverance they should, in the first place, make yourself feel better about yourself, and once this is achieved, you will be unstoppable.

Written by Zsolt Beke

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