On January 1st you were determined to make a fresh start. Whether you vowed to lose 10 pounds, quit smoking, or watch less television, you were confident and committed. Now? You’re not so sure — and you’re not alone. In fact, a U.K. survey revealed that Friday, January 23rd (also known as “fail Friday”) is the day that people are most apt to abandon their New Year’s resolutions. The upside is that it’s not too late to get back on track. Boost the odds in your favor by following these four tips.
1. Tweak your intentions.
You swore you’d run 10 miles every single day no matter the weather, but then the polar vortex hit and you ended up hibernating on your couch for a few days. Research shows that about 40 to 50 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but they often don’t stick to them because the targets are too extreme, says psychologist Jephtha Tausig-Edwards, Ph.D. (aka Dr. Jeph), a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “When people can’t execute their initial goals, they feel frustrated and may drop them altogether,” she explains. Instead of scrapping your plan, consider revising it. Think about the sentiment behind your resolution and pick a more realistic way to accomplish it. For example, if you wanted to improve your endurance, try running a half-mile more each week.
2. Break it down.
Losing weight is the most popular New Year’s resolution, but people who aim to lose one to two pounds a week are more likely to succeed than those who say they’re going to lose 30 pounds. Setting mini-goals keeps you motivated because you can relish in your achievements along the way. When it comes to slimming down, keep in mind that focusing on the number on the scale is just one way to go about it. You might do just as well by planning to have a piece of fruit whenever you crave dessert or committing to hit the gym twice a week, says Dr. Jeph.
3. Rally your support system.
“Having others acknowledge our accomplishments goes a long way in making us feel good about the process we’re engaged in,” says Dr. Jeph. Share your goals with loved ones, and let them know when you hit big milestones. Supportive family and friends can help prevent you from slacking as well, especially if a few of them share similar goals. If your usual crew isn’t up to the task, head to Facebook or Twitter to see if any other friends are in the same boat and use them as a support group.
4. Reap the rewards.
Trying to quit smoking? Every time you do something healthy (like take a walk or call a friend) instead of buying cigarettes, set aside the cost of a pack until you have enough money for a massage or that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. “Positive feedback can significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with a new behavior,” says Dr. Jeph, so figure out a way to treat yourself when you deserve it.
Originally posted January 24, 2014. Updated January 2015.