I'm not big on New Years resolutions simply because I try to be mindful all year long and am constantly working off my to-do list. But a new year is the perfect time to assess goals and make changes. For example, I have a few house organizational projects I will be tackling immediately. I also have some blogging and other professional goals I'm setting out to achieve this year. Not to mention getting back to exercise when I begin weaning. Of course these are all easier said than done. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based neuropsychologist affiliated with Columbia University, offered me the following tips to help make my New Years' resolutions a reality. Hopefully, they'll work for you too:
1. Envision the end result and reverse engineer it.
Neural pathways in the brain can be changed through a combination of visualization and aligned action according to Dr. Hafeez. As a result, she suggests that we journal about what it is we want. Start by writing it all down (or typing it!). “How would life improve?" "What are the benefits?" She also suggests making an inspiration board and keeping it visible like hanging it on the wall or fridge. "Be clear on what you think you will feel like once you see results,” she recommends.
2. Know your triggers.
Set yourself up for success by understanding what may potentially get you off track. “Sticky resolutions come with planning. If you want to lose weight then begin with clearing out your fridge and cupboards of junk food. That in itself is an action that will tell your brain that you are serious. Get recipes and write out a new grocery shopping list. Writing plans, micro goals and ideas that serve the greater accomplishment you're reaching for creates “buy in” from your brain," says Hafeez.
If you resolve to save more money, Dr. Hafeez suggests to evaluatomg when and why you spend. If you notice you spend $40 a week on coffee, think of alternatives. “You don’t want to cut yourself off from anything cold-turkey. The brain doesn’t respond well to deprivation. It sends brain chemicals that signal displeasure which is what makes you lose your willpower. Shift to a possibility or curiosity mindset. Ask yourself, what can I do to save $5 per day, invites in inspired thoughts and creative ideas,” explains Hafeez.
3. Pace yourself.
“The reason why resolutions don’t stick is because people set the bar way too high and expect achievement way too fast. Think of every week as a win. Break it down into weekly chunks and train the brain to value quick accomplishments,” she advises. The people who resolve to lose weight and get more exercise won’t stick to it if they don’t celebrate small milestones and try to do too much too soon. Resolve to lose 1 to 3 pounds per week. Do this by cutting out soft drinks or juices and drinking water instead. After 10 weeks you''ll be 20 pounds lighter with great skin just because you did one thing week by week until it became your new normal.
4. Trick your brain by making it fun.
“Our language and self-talk is everything and determines if our resolution will fade or will become something we’re still doing in June,” says Dr. Hafeez. “When someone resolves to change their diet, exercise and lose weight they already envision how difficult it is going to be so they are already dreading it before they started. However, shifting the brain to doing something fun that is in line with the goal gets you more committed," she adds. Create a playlist of great music to work out to. Look up recipes on Pinterest to build your new shopping list. When you do the advance preparation that is more fun, and take small steps towards building the new lifestyle to support your resolution, you’re setting yourself up for a win.
5. Fuel your resolution with greater purpose worth committing to.
If you want to resolve to save more money, it’s is helpful to have a clear purpose for the money you plan to save. Resolving to save more money is vague making it hard to remain on track. Saving more money to take an amazing vacation or to purchase a home or car is something tangible you can stick to. “It’s common for people to commit to doing something when they connect it to a greater purpose beyond them or an experience they want to have. This explains why lifetime smokers can instantly quit when they learn they are pregnant. It’s not about them anymore. We see the man who is 75 pounds overweight lose weight when his daughter gets engaged. Whenever we can connect resolutions to a bigger purpose our minds get on board, and when the mind is all in, resolutions stick,” explains Dr. Hafeez.
What's one of your New Year's resolutions and what's your plan of attack?