Whether it’s New Year’s Eve or any ol’ day, it’s never a bad time to make health and fitness resolutions. And while the stats on New Year’s resolutions can be discouraging, one study showed those who resolved to lose weight, exercise, or quit smoking were far more successful (46 versus four percent) than those who didn’t make a firm resolution for the same goalsAuld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Norcross, J.C, Mrykalo, M.S, Blagys, M.D. Journal of Clinical Psychology 2002; 58(4):397-405.. Here are some tips to help make those resolutions stick.

Photo by Marissa Angell

1. Start now. It’s never too soon to start brainstorming and jotting down NewYear’s resolutions. Trust us, the morning after a New Year’s Eve party is not the best time to make life-changing decisions.

2. Break it down. “Lose weight” may be too intangible. “Lose one pound a week,” on the other hand, is more easy to measure and achieve. Men, in particular, may be more likely to succeed when they break down a goal into bite-sized pieces.

3. Get specific. Make those plans as precise as possible. Rather than just aiming to exercise more, plan out the exact days and times of gym visits.

4. Time it. In general, experts say it takes 21 to 28 days to learn a habit, but if that hand isn’t regularly reaching for the floss by the end of January, there’s no need to panic. Other research suggests a habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days (and an average of 66 days) to become truly automatic.

5. Quit cold turkey (for a little while). When it comes to cutting alcohol, one support group recommends dumping alcohol entirely for a month. This method may help for moderating things like sweets or time in front of the tube, too; the idea is if we can’t live without something, we won’t be able to enjoy it in moderation either.

6. Keep it real. It’s essential to make realistic resolutions to prevent an all-out emotional breakdown and backslide come February. Reaching the resolution finish line is as much about the journey as the result, and it’s important to not be miserable along the way. If cutting out fast food altogether is a no-go, commit to healthier fast food options or a weekly maximum.

7. Trade it in. Don’t just give up something you love. (I’m looking at you, chocolate chip pancakes). Replace bad habits with something good. Instead of using Facebook and cat videos to wind down, curl up with a good book or nap; or opt for pumpkin pie oatmeal instead of those sweet treats.

8. Team up. It may be easy to find pals with similar goals, but their goal-achieving style is what really matters. Planners should pair up with doers and people who like to do all their research first should stick with others who tend to jump right in. It may not feel natural at first, but those who work differently can help where we struggle.

9. Get rewarded. Pure resolve may work for a little while, but once stress steps in, we can get sidetracked. It’s essential to have a reward system in place to stay motivated in the long and short-term, and positive motivation may beat out fear of failure. Several apps and sites also help provide the necessary motivation (i.e. Gym-pact allows users to wager real cash on their fitness goals).

10. Share it. Women in particular are more likely to keep a resolution if they talk about it with friends and family— so that explains why that pal keeps bragging about how much weight she lost…

11. Get confident. After all this planning, teaming up, and sharing, there should be no doubt the goal is attainable. Staying confident is key to accomplishing those resolutions— especially when it comes to a new exercise regimenSelf-regulatory processes and exercise adherence in older adults: executive function and self-efficacy effects. McAuley, E., Mullen, S.P., Szabo, A.N. et al. Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois, Urbana IL. American Journal of Preventative Medicine 2011;41(3): 284-290..

Do you usually stick to New Year’s resolutions? Tell us in the comments below!