Weight loss resolutions begin with proper goal-setting.

The Science Behind New Year's Resolutions

What’s your big goal for 2018? Maybe you want to lose fifteen pounds, or train for a half-marathon, or cut back on alcohol. According to Forbes, up to 40% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions -- but only 8% of these resolution markers actually achieve their goals.

In this post, we’ll discuss the science behind creating new habits and setting attainable goals. This knowledge should help prepare you to make your resolutions a reality, whether you want to say no to stale donuts, eat less meat, or make more time for your family.

Understand How to Set Goals

Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford University psychologist, shared four ways to set better goals with TED. Her concepts aren’t groundbreaking; they are rooted in pragmatism.

1. Select meaningful goals

This means thinking through goals so that they can be held close to our hearts. An example she gives: quitting smoking. She encourages those who want to quit smoking to really think about why they want to improve their health. To be healthier, yes. But why? To be healthy enough to live longer? But why live longer? To get to know your grandchildren? That, says McGonigal, is a real goal.

2. Make the process your focus, and let go of the outcome

McGonigal warns goal-setters to not overly fantasize about their goals’ end results. It’s too easy to imagine ourselves 25 pounds thinner without giving enough credit to the difficult process that precedes the achievement. If we can shift our energy to the more mundane, everyday choices that will lead us closer to the end result and we’ll have more success.

Says McGonigal: “You can make very, very small changes that are consistent with your big goals without having to understand how you’re going to get to the endgame.”

3. Think about your goals positively

It’s important to describe your goal in a way that adds value to your life. McGonigal says that brain chemistry rewards positive goals with motivation, while negative goals trigger inhibition. If you want to lose weight, think about treating your body with love and kindness and giving it the proper fuel and maintenance it needs. Make self-care the goal. Tormenting yourself with self-hatred and mantras like “I’m so fat” won’t make it easier to turn away those French fries.

4. Plan for small failures

Let go of the idea that you must perfectly pursuit your goal! Don’t let one missed workout or one night of overeating derail your plan. Says McGonigal: “In that moment when you fail, often the first instinct is to push the goal away. It’s so uncomfortable to be in that place of self-doubt or self-criticism and guilt.”

Develop a plan for that missed workout or inevitable fast food binge. This preparedness will help you recover from your little deviations quickly. Tell yourself, when you set your goals, exactly what you’ll do when you slip up. Think: If I miss a workout, I’ll treat myself to a rest day and use my extra energy push myself a little harder the next day. Or, if I eat a burger and fries, I’ll enjoy every bite, and I won’t punish myself -- but my next three meals will be well-rounded and healthy.

Recognize That Building New Habits Takes Times

It takes time to develop new, good habits -- and eradicate bad ones! General consensus is it takes three weeks to rewire your brain into a new behavior, such as going to the gym or cutting out complaining.

But newer studies indicate it could be more like two months until your new patterns really stick. In the meantime, you’ll need to make daily, hourly -- maybe even to-the-minute -- commitments to your resolution if you really want to make a change.

Some ideas for getting you through the tough rewiring phase:

  • Set up a rewards system for little achievements
  • Use friends and family as a support system
  • Find a friend (in real life or online) with the same goals as you
  • Make a list of reasons why the goal is important to you and keep it accessible at all times

Knowledge is power! Hopefully, your improved understanding of how to set and frame a goal -- and how long it might take for it to “feel easy” -- will help you see your 2018 resolutions through.  Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year from the EZC Pak Immune Support team!

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