The Science Behind Successful New Year’s Resolutions | HuffPost

a few months ago

The Science Behind Successful New Year’s Resolutions | HuffPost

HuffPost | December, 2017

huffingtonpost.com

Even though the new year can be exciting and full of possibility, it can also be pretty stressful. You might be saying things like, “Why don’t any of my pants fit?!” or “How am I still in this horrible job?!” Enter the New Year’s resolution. About 45 percent of Americans make them. We imagine ourselves in that new job or smaller pants size. It’s exhilarating. The good news: A Journal of Clinical Psychology study found that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who don’t. The bad news: Short-term urges can trump long-term plans. Another Journal of Clinical Psychology study reports that 54 percent give up on their resolutions within six months — and only 8 percent ultimately succeed by the end of the year.

So each year, why are we writing proverbial checks we can’t cash? A few answers have emerged from scientific research on the topic.

Even though making a resolution is thrilling, keeping it isn’t easy. Many people aren’t ready to make the serious commitment needed to succeed.

In my new book, Happy People, Bottom-Line Results and the Power to Deliver Both, I talk about a workplace phenomenon that I call Delusional Development. Delusional Development is the futile hope that you will get better at something just because you want to. For example, a manager might say she wants to improve her listening skills, not do anything substantive to change that, and then be surprised or disappointed when she isn’t a better listener.

The same applies to your New Year’s resolutions. When you say, “This year, I will lose 30 pounds,” but have no real strategy to make it happen, the number on the scale simply isn’t going to change. As the saying goes, hope is not a plan.

Many people toss out a laundry list of resolutions every year. In 2014, you might decide, you’re going to fix your finances, stop drinking beer and run a marathon! Hot dog!

Unfortunately, when we take on too much at once, our brain chemistry works against us. Successful resolutions require self-control — say, the self-control to wake up early and run five miles — and self-control is an exhaustible resource.

In one study, Baumeister and his colleagues divided participants into two groups — one completed a series of tasks requiring self-control, and the other completed tasks that didn’t. Then, the researchers measured their blood glucose levels. Glucose is best thought of as fuel for the brain — when it metabolizes in the bloodstream, the brain can carry out its major functions. In Baumeister’s study, not only did the self-control group show lower glucose levels, low glucose levels led to poorer self-control.

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Via huffingtonpost.com

 

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