Roughly 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year but research shows only 10% of us stick with them for more than a few months.
According to Scott Bea of Cleveland Clinic often the biggest roadblock to success is getting a new habit off the ground.
“Starting is the hardest part because we’ll think about it, and when we think about the habit change, it makes us uncomfortable,” he said. “If we then back away from it, our discomfort goes away, and our avoidance becomes rewarded pretty quickly. Pushing through that discomfort, to get it started, to willingly accept that discomfort, is a great way to get rolling.”
The tough part about forming a new habit, according to Dr. Bea, is that it takes our brains a while to get used to new behaviors. He said there is actually a place in a deep part of our brains where habits are formed, and with resolutions, we’re usually trying to replace an old habit with a new one – and that takes time.
“There are some studies that suggest that it will take anywhere from 63-66 days to form a new habit, which is a little bit longer than people would like or think,” Dr. Bea said. “It depends on the individual, and it depends on the behavior we’re trying to change, but, we just have to stick with it until it becomes part of us.”
Bea said sometimes the beginning of a new year is not the best time to try to make real lasting change in your life.
“There might be something to be said for maybe not doing it exactly on New Year’s Day,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of stress lingering from the holidays, you still have to take down holiday decorations; you still have to pay bills associated with the holidays so, you might pick a slightly later time, when things are a little more tranquil.”
Bea admits that habit change is difficult, which is why he said it’s also important to keep in mind that we might not succeed on the first, second or maybe even third try. But, he said if your resolutions aren’t working out as planned, don’t be so hard on yourself.
“Rather than saying ‘I failed,’ try saying, ‘You know, I didn’t reach my goal, but I learned an awful lot;’ - try to rejuvenate that intention, and that determination, and that willingness to make another run at it,” Bea said.
Bea said the good news is that if we can get past the initial phase of discomfort, our new habit is no longer an intimidating ‘resolution’, but simply part of our everyday lives.