“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” — Oprah Winfrey That pretty much sums up this coming New Year's celebration. 2016 sure was an awful lot of a work. And it felt like most of the year was spent “catching up”. Even my informative article about ringing in 2016 was 2 weeks late. To be honest, I was never really a fan of creating New Years’ Resolutions. They always seemed rather trite. That was until I gave some lectures on doctors supporting their patients in using the new year as an excuse to make healthier life changes. And there was one small study that really stood out in my research for these lectures.
One Simple Trick to Being 10times More Likely to Be Successful
This study found that of people who wanted to make a lifestyle change, those that made a resolution to do so were successful about 46% of the time. Those that did not make a resolution? They were only successful 4% of the time. Pretty sure this means their findings suggest you are 10 times more likely to make a change if you set a resolution to do so. That is significant. And a simple trick to creating better health. The study also found that those who were successful at making resolutions didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about their resolutions or examining how they felt about these resolutions. Fantastic. It would actually be really helpful to have a simple trick that would allow one to make some changes without over-thinking or over-feeling it. No one ever said that the resolution had to be made at the New Year, but this time is definitely a good excuse to make some positive changes in life. In 2016, it was my intention to write more, which gave the perfect opportunity to test out making a New Year's Resolution. So, like any good doctor, I tested making a successful resolution on myself first. Also like any good doctor, I did some research on ways to increase the likelihood of being successful in creating my resolution. I mean really, let’s be honest… Though failing can be filled with lessons, it’s really not fun. My resolutions in the past had never really been successful. And I definitely wanted to be in the small 8% of Americans that actually achieve their New Year's Resolutions this time.
Tips on Making More Successful Resolutions
The first tip from my research was to not create basic resolutions like simply “Eating Healthier”. Apparently, this generally just leads to spending more money and eating more calories. It seems as though most of us who resolve to eat healthier in the new year buy/eat the same amount of “unhealthy food”. We just add in the “healthy food” on top of all the rest during the New Year. One study found that nearly twice as many additional calories were purchased in the beginning of January than during the entire holiday season! Next, Harvard had quite a lot helpful to say about creating effective resolutions. Here are some highlights:
Don’t make too many goals. 3 at most.
Make the goals specific. Not just “exercise more often”.
Create goals because they are important to you, not because you should or someone else thinks you should.
So, with all of their advice my intention to write more in 2016 was transformed into a proper New Year's Resolution. Here it was for 2016, as documented in my blog posting from January 13, 2016:
I resolve to write more. Specifically, I will write at least one article per month.
Researchers seemed to disagree about the importance of sharing the resolution with others, so I casually mentioned it to a few people and included it in a blog posting.
Squarely in the 8% of those Who Achieve New Years' Resolutions
Undoubtedly, my 2016 resolution does not sound nearly as glamorous or ambitious as some of my previous years' attempts. And technically, my resolution was not completely achieved. There were two months that I did not write an article: March and June. But I was not deterred and that isn’t the end of the story… this post you are reading makes 23 articles posted/published for the year. And I may just do one more to fully double my goal for 2016. Plus! I have finished my first book. Publishing it will be another task, but the first full draft of book is finished.
True, maybe all of this writing would have happened in 2016 without setting the goal at the beginning of the year. But, it was still a busy year: I also started a new business, traveled to 20 different states, and attended countless board/committee meetings in 2016. Guess we will never know for sure if this much writing would have been prioritized without the resolution. In either case, I am still putting myself squarely in the 8% of those who successfully made a New Year’s Resolution in 2016.
How Many Days to Create a New Habit?
Since my 2016 resolution experiment was so successful, I am going to try it again for 2017. This time, my resolution is actually in response to achieving my 2016 resolution. Because I am writing more, I am also sitting a lot more. In a recent conversation with my mother she rightfully boasted, “I walked 17,000 steps today!” My first thought was how great it is that she got in so many steps in one day! My second thought was, “Pretty sure that I sat for like 10 hours today.” My third thought was a reminder that my mother is doing all this walking in Michigan. In the winter. And I live a block from the beach in Southern California. With no truly valid excuse. This conversation inspired me to commit to moving more in 2017. Research is clear that physical inactivity is one of the greatest contributors to poor overall health. Conditions like heart disease and some cancers as well as anxiety, depression, and cognitive abilities all see to be linked with physical inactivity. No need to sacrifice my health just to write more! Then, I remembered hearing that changing a habit takes 21 days. Or was it 28? Either way, I could commit myself to walking 10,000 steps every day, at least for the month of January. Even if the 10,000 step goal was just a marketing tactic used in Japan in the 50's, it will still encourage more physical activity. It will be a sort of cleanse. Cleansing out the dust of sitting for most of 2016. Much to my disappointment however, a little more research revealed a recent study that seems to suggest it actually varies quite a bit more than simply 21 or 28 days to create a habit. The average for most of us to change a habit seems to actually be closer to 66 days. Huhn. Bummer. 10,000 steps every day until the beginning of March? That is a little too daunting to me. So, to stay in line with recommendations of the experts in goal setting, I am going to keep it more realistic. So, here is my 2017 New Years’ Resolution:
I resolve to be more physically active in 2017. And to start, I will walk at least 10,000 steps every day in January.
Already 50,000 Steps Ahead of 2017
Hope these tips will help to encourage you to join the 8% of us that succeed in creating life changes in 2017. The new year really is a great excuse to make some healthier changes in life. Even if you don’t start it on January 1. The Chinese New Year is on January 28th in 2017… Just saying.
I started practicing 10,000 steps a day earlier this week. And? Well... I am already 50,000 steps ahead of 2017. Progress from 2016. To help inspire you to join me (and to help stay on track myself), I will post a picture from my walks every day in January. Make sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see some of these adventures! If you also decide to commit to 10,000 steps every day in January, please share your pictures to the hashtag #10kstepsinjan! Cheers to 2017 and another chance to get it right. Be easy with yourself though, it’s all just Practicing the Art of Healing.
Happy New Year!