Make a New Year's resolution and stick with it, here's how

By Jeff Williamson - Digital Content Manager
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(AP Stock Image/Fotolia/dolphfyn)

Chizo Obi, Media General - (MEDIA GENERAL) -- Making a New Year's resolution and sticking to it is easier said than done. Many will try but few will be successful in their attempt to eat healthier, save money or get organized.

A lifestyle change cannot happen overnight, and experts say psychology plays an important role in an individual's ability to remain firm in their annual commitments.

Getting your brain in the right mindset may take time and practice. Here are a few ideas to get you started on the right track:

Make ONE goal

Goal-setting can be exciting, but the path to achieving it can be arduous.

If you try to accomplish too much too fast, you will only get frustrated and give up quickly.

Set one goal and create mini milestones that document your progress. This way you can be encouraged during the journey and you are taking steps in the right direction.

Resolutions can sometimes appear far-reaching when an individual cannot pinpoint actual growth toward their goal.

Write it down 

Write down your goal and place it somewhere you will see it every day as a constant reminder.

Studies show people who write down their goals are more likely to accomplish them.

Viewing your goal on a regular basis can reignite intensity and motivate you to reach the finish line.

Practice makes perfect

Willpower, or a strong determination that allows you to do something difficult, is not is not a fixed characteristic. Through practice, willpower can be strengthened.

In an experiment conducted at the University at Albany, 122 smokers were asked to practice self-control more frequently for two weeks, either by avoiding sweets or squeezing on a grip strengthener for as long as possible twice daily.

The 27 percent that was consistent with their exercises were able to successfully quit smoking. In comparison, only 12 percent of participants who were not assigned an exercise managed to kick the habit.

Be thankful

Your outlook on life can positively or negatively impact your well-being. Recognizing and being appreciative for certain aspects or people in your life can also boost mental and physical health.

In a study conducted by Dr. Paul J. Millis, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, gratitude improved the moods of patients with asymptomatic heart failure and in turn enhanced the quality of sleep and decreased fatigue.

Stress can exacerbate existing problems, making it important for people to take care of themselves and maintain a positive and realistic attitude. A healthy, well-rested person is better able to cope with stress and setbacks.

Develop a support group

Share your goal with family and friends. Two heads are better than one, so they say, and your loved ones can offer encouragement and feedback you need to succeed. Your plan to accomplish your resolution may need some tweaking. Their knowledge can provide a richer perspective.

Also, friends and family will be the first to notice changes in your lifestyle and can offer words of affirmation.

Dr. Joseph Shrand of Harvard University says social approval delivers a rush of oxytocin, a hormone that connects social bonding, to the brain.

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