Health
3:21 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Stateside: Keeping our New Year's resolutions

University of Michigan psychologist Michelle Segar talks about what it takes to keep a New Year's resolution.

New Year’s resolutions.

We may groan about them, we may proclaim that we are “above” making them, but it does seem that the New Year brings about a collective longing for a fresh start.

So, how do you keep going strong as the year goes on? And is it possible to turn a good intention into a lifelong, good habit?

University of Michigan psychologist Michelle Segar says the key to success is the ability to see something like exercise as a way to enhance our lives immediately, instead of the means to achieve a long-term goal.

Immediate rewards, such as a better mood arising from physical activity, do a better job of motivating than say trying to lose 50 pounds, Segar says.

And though it might seem simple, we should try to pick activities that feel good.

“Who’s got time to fit in something they feel bad about?” Segar says.

People need to stop taking the “bitter pill” approach to exercise, and start viewing it as something that allows them to thrive in their daily lives.

When taking on addictive habits like smoking, Segar suggests a strategy called “if-then planning.”

It requires predetermining potential obstacles so that if and when they arise, you will be ready with a set of tools to overcome them.

Research shows that this process actually automates behavior so that we need not waste time and energy mindfully fighting an impulse, Segar says.

She says will power is similar to a muscle as it’s limited in strength and can become exhausted.

That requires focusing on one thing at a time in order to be successful.

And remembering that you have your whole life to work on many of these goals.

Most important, Segar says, is finding a truly compelling “why?” That means picking the one thing that will most impact your daily life and giving yourself the time to work on it.

“Consider your life one giant experiment as you focus on this task,” she says.

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- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom