I Resolve To . . .Dec. 9, 2003
Every January, millions of Americans make New Year's resolutions, often vowing to lose weight, volunteer more or quit smoking. Unfortunately, most of these new promises give way to old habits by February -- if not sooner.
There is hope, though. According to some Baylor experts, the key to keeping resolutions is setting realistic goals. Here's their advice on how to stay both optimistic and on course for some of the most-cited New Year's resolutions.
1: Quit bad habits.Whether resolving to stop smoking, drinking, biting nails or procrastinating, people are more likely to alter their behavior if they taper gradually instead of quitting cold turkey, says Wade Rowatt, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience. "It takes awhile to form a habit, so it will take time to reduce negative habits," he says. "One should expect relapses along the way. One hundred percent success starting Jan. 1 is not probable." Rowatt says it's unrealistic to make absolute resolutions; resolve instead to reduce the habit.
2: Lose weight.According to the American Heart Association, 106.9 million American adults over age 20 are considered overweight and 43.6 million are considered obese, so it's no wonder that battling the bulge is one of the most popular resolutions. The key is to focus on learning proper eating habits, something fad diets don't usually encourage, says Brian Leutholtz, professor of health, human performance and recreation and clinical exercise physiologist. "I tell people who want to lose weight not to change a single thing with their diets but cut their portions in half," he says. "If they normally have a candy bar in the afternoon, they should just eat half a candy bar."
3: Get in shape.Right up there next to losing weight among favorite resolutions is getting in better physical condition. Leutholtz points out that people who buy exercise equipment such as a Bowflex or NordicTrack usually use the machines only for about a month. "My advice is just to walk," he says. "It's easy, it doesn't require any special equipment and you can do it anywhere." He recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise, three days a week, with the approval of a physician. "A combination of diet and exercise maintains a high metabolic rate by maintaining muscle tissue," he says.
4: Manage finances better.With money being a source of stress in the slumping economy, millions of Americans resolve to save money, spend less and get out of debt. "The best way to save money is to pay yourself first," says Tom Potts, professor of finance and director of the Financial Services and Planning Program. "People learn to live on their take-home pay, so they should have some of their paycheck go directly into a savings account and act like the money is not disposable." A family budget where each member works to save money also is a good approach, he says.
5: Give back to the community.Helping others is a popular, unselfish resolution that can take many forms, and nonprofit organizations in the community always are in need of volunteers. According to Jessica Truglio, community service coordinator at Baylor, the best way for people to start volunteering is for them to consider their passions and strengths. "People need to decide what they care about, whether it is poverty, animal rights or something else," she says. "They also need to consider their strengths before deciding on a service. There are different places for volunteers with people skills, administrative abilities or people who like to work outdoors."
6: Enjoy life more.With September 11 and the war with Iraq still looming on Americans' minds, more people are vowing to appreciate the gift of life itself -- now, not later. Rowatt says happiness and behavior are correlated: "An article in the Journal of Psychological Science (January 2002) says very happy people are highly social, have strong relationships, are more extroverted, agreeable and less neurotic than unhappy people."