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New Year’s Resolutions—How to Set Yourself up for Success

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Oral and total body health

Each New Year’s, one out of every two of us will make New Year’s resolutions. (Sources: Psychology Today and Journal of Clinical Psychology.) According to researchers, usually the first two weeks of starting any new new at this time of year, goes pretty smoothly.

Then, after just four weeks—by February—people start so slip, and old habits start to creep back in.

Maybe it is quitting smoking, eating healthier foods, starting to floss regularly, losing weight, or starting to exercise. Whatever the change in behavior may be, how come it can be so difficult to keep our resolutions?

1. We actually aren’t intrinsically motivated to change our behaviors. 

Professor of Psychology Timothy Pychyl explains how sometimes, resolutions are a bit of cultural procrastination. In certain situations, he argues that we make a resolution to show that we are committed to changing certain behaviors. In reality, we don’t yet have the real, intrinsic motivation required for long-term change.

In other words, Pychyl asserts that we create a resolution to motivate ourselves, instead of being motivated, and then changing our behaviors as a result. With a real lack of motivation at the core of our intentions, we end up failing to break our habits.

2. We set unrealistic goals or expectations.

Another concept for why we can fail to keep resolutions has been deemed the false hope syndrome. Psychology professor Peter Herman and colleagues assert that we make goals that can be greatly out of alignment with our real view of ourselves. In some cases, the resolution just may be significantly unrealistic.

In the end, making a goal that we can only hope for doesn’t mean we give ourselves a chance to really change our ingrained habits.

So what should we do to fight these two common traps people often fall into? 

First, be realistic with your goals. If you aren’t exercising at all, don’t expect yourself to be able to exercise 5 days a week. Also, set yourself up for decision-making so you can ease yourself into making the right choices each day.

For example, if you are giving up soda, perhaps gradually give it up, instead of going “cold turkey.”

Have a friend or colleague help you set goals that can be accurate, and that can be adjusted over time as you incrementally find success. Remember that the more you believe you can effect and maintain change, the more success you are likely to have, a concept that’s backed by science.

Next, be sure to choose a resolution you truly find value in.

If you aren’t ready to start eating vegetables every day, it’s going to be hard to maintain change over time.  Consider writing down all the underlying reasons why you want to change a certain aspect of your life, and that can help narrow down a worthy behavior change.

Start preparing, and then acting on, your intentions.

Approach any resolution as a process. Just like your oral hygiene and other health-related habits, habits and our resulting sustainable lifestyle choices are what we do over time. One day off, or one day without a certain activity, doesn’t “make or break” our routine. By seeing our resolution as a process of change, we are better able to enter the actual “action” stage that comes with so many of our resolutions.

Ready to have better oral hygiene this year? Give us a call today.

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