Considering a New Year’s Resolution for 2019? Baylor Experts Can Help

Here is a listing of Baylor University research that might help advise those seeking positive change in the coming year. (iStock)
Dec. 17, 2018

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WACO, Texas (Dec. 17, 2018) – As 2019 approaches, many Americans are considering ways to improve themselves via New Year’s resolutions.

Whether it’s personal, like losing weight or clearing clutter, or it’s professional, such as being a better manager or breaking away from smartphones, the options are wide-ranging. Here is a listing of Baylor University research that might help advise those seeking positive change in the coming year.

First and Foremost, Resolve not to Over-resolve

Only 10 to 20 percent of people keep their resolutions, says Sara Dolan, Ph.D., associate professor and graduate program director of clinical psychology. She advises setting “bite-sized goals instead of a massive behavior change.”

Rather than giving up sugar completely or going all out at the gym, she advises achieving small successes before moving on.

Ask Yourself: “Do I really want to work from home?”

Many U.S. employees believe working from home – or at least away from the office – can bring freedom and stress-free job satisfaction. A 2018 Baylor University study says, “Not so fast.”

The research, led by Sara Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, found that:

  • Autonomy is critical to protecting remote employees’ well-being and helping them avoid strain.
  • Employees reporting high levels of autonomy and emotional stability appear to be the most able to thrive in remote-work positions.
  • Employees reporting high levels of job autonomy with lower levels of emotional stability appear to be more susceptible to strain.

“Any organization, regardless of the extent to which people work remotely, needs to consider well-being of their employees as they implement more flexible working practices,” the researchers wrote.

Read more here.

Save Money by being a Better Negotiator

In today’s retail climate, where stores struggle to keep up with online competition and customers can compare prices with the ease of their smartphones, the price tag is just a starting point for negotiations, said negotiation expert Emily Hunter, Ph.D., associate professor of management in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

“No longer do you need to pay sticker price for everything you buy. The customer is now empowered to have a say in pricing, and even hourly retail workers are often empowered to give price discounts when requested,” Hunter said.

Hunter said negotiations – whether in a retail setting or in the workplace – require confidence.

“Many people are hesitant to negotiate because they don’t know how or they are worried about the other person’s reaction (Will they think I’m greedy?),” she said. “But practice can increase your confidence in your ability to negotiate. Rejection is less common than you fear, and retail stores especially are often willing to work with you.”

She offered the following tips to increase the chances of greater deals at the check-out counter.

Resolving to Be More Generous in the New Year

Many Americans already have enough “stuff,” and the gift-giving season sometimes adds to that collection of things we really don’t need. Instead of always receiving, how can we resolve to be more generous in the New Year?

“Whatever our station, however much money or resources we have, we all have something to share and something to give,” says Andy Hogue, Ph.D., senior lecturer in Baylor’s Honors College who teaches a course on philanthropy and the public good. “I like the idea of thinking in terms of a New Year’s resolution, sort of resolving to be more generous and helping people to think in those ways.”

Hogue offers individuals and families four ways to develop a spirit of generosity in the New Year.

Home Cooking Saves Money, Encourages Better Diet

The more home-prepared foods used, the less risk there is of eating too many calories and fat calories, says Baylor University nutrition expert Janelle Walter, Ph.D., professor of family and consumer sciences and Nutrition Sciences Program coordinator. Home cooking also saves money and allows for more fruits, vegetables and dairy products — which often are missing when pre-prepared products are used — as well as less fat, sugar and salt.

Some tips for prepping at home are making a precise list, lining up recipes and lists of ingredients, shopping when you aren’t hungry and preparing five main dishes at a time to see you through a few days. Involve your family in choosing foods, shopping and preparing foods, Walter says. Many simple and quick recipes are on online sites, she said, referencing these from Southern Living.

Consider a New Approach to Dieting

Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, researched successful dieters and how they were different from others. Her research results have received national attention.

“Our research shows that instead of creating rules to avoid one’s favorite treats, dieters should focus on eating healthy foods that they enjoy,” David said. “Dieters who restrict themselves from consuming the foods they love most may be setting themselves up for failure. Instead, they may be better off by allowing occasional ‘treats’ and focusing attention on healthy foods that they enjoy and making it a point to include those tasty but healthy foods in their diet.”

Read the full article.

Be Humble and Helpful

In hard times, you know how much a helping hand means — and how humbling those times can be. So it might be good to resolve to look for opportunities to assist in 2019, while remembering not to pat yourself on the back for doing so.

A decision to help someone else is influenced by time pressure, number of bystanders, empathy or a person's own distress — but that’s not all, says Baylor researcher Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience.

“While several factors influence whether people will volunteer to help, it appears that humble people, on average, are more helpful than individuals who are egotistical or conceited.”

Cultivate Patience — and Better Mental Health

People who are more patient toward others also tend to be more hopeful, grateful and satisfied with life, says Sara Schnitker, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. And there is more than one type of patience, including interpersonal patience — dealing with annoying people without losing your cool; handling life hardships — such as illness or unemployment — without frustration or despair; and coping with such daily hassles as traffic jams, computer woes and long lines.

In her research, Schnitker invited undergraduates to two weeks of patience training, where they learned to identify feelings and their triggers, regulate their emotions, empathize and meditate. If you want to build your own patience, she recommends following three steps: identify, imagine and sync.

First, take a moment to slow down an identify how you are feeling and why you might be feeling that way. Second, try to imagine or reappraise the situation from a different perspective or in a new way that helps you to be calm. Finally, sync with your purpose. Try to connect how what you are doing or enduring helps you pursue larger goals or your life purpose.

When Ailing, Talk to A Doctor Instead of Searching the Internet for Answers

Rather than heading to the doctor — or even the medicine cabinet — some people turn first to the Internet when they are ailing , according to a Baylor University researcher.

Especially for folks who have trouble handling uncertainty, "cyberchondria" — the online counterpart to hypochondria — worsens as they seek answers, says Thomas Fergus, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.

“They may become more anxious. And the more they search, the more they consider the possibilities,” he says.

Doubts about health also can trigger worries about medical bills, disability and job loss, he said. And that can lead to a Catch-22 of more Googling (sometimes of questionable sources). Rather than giving in to cyberchondria, resolve to call your doctor — and take what you read with a grain of salt.

In Conflicts with your Significant Other, Relinquish Power

During spats with your spouse or significant other, the most common thing people want is not an apology, but a willingness to relinquish power, says Keith Sanford, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences.

That comes in many forms, among them giving a partner more independence, admitting faults, showing respect and being willing to compromise. Following closely behind the desire for shared control was the wish for the partner to show more of an investment in the relationship by such ways as sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, listening and sharing chores and activities, Sanford said.

Sleep Better in the New Year

Writing a “to-do” list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study by Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Scullin's 2018 research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants who chronicled completed activities. Scullin suggests that writing a list may allow the brain to “offload” them instead of cycling through them repeatedly.

Other hints: Use the bed for sleep rather than studying or entertainment; keep a regular sleep schedule; avoid electronics near bedtime; don’t take long day naps; and stay away from stimulants at least six hours before bedtime.

Clear Out Clutter Without Getting Frazzled

“Don’t try to organize the entire house in one weekend,” said Elise King, assistant professor in the department of family and consumer sciences. “You are much more likely to complete a task, especially one that you’ve probably been avoiding, if you break it into small goals. Don’t try to clean out an entire room over a weekend; instead, focus on the desk one week, the closet the next, and so forth.”

Finally, involve your family, strive to make organization a routine — and reward yourself for your efforts.

Break Away from the Smartphone

Baylor marketing researchers James Roberts and Meredith David, Ph.D. have conducted numerous studies on the effects of smartphone technology on relationships. Their studies on “phubbing” – phone snubbing – have garnered national and international interest, given the pervasiveness of smartphone technology and its impact on relationships.

Their studies have found:

Bosses Who “Phone Snub” Their Employees Risk Losing Trust and Engagement

“Phubbing” can damage romantic relationships and lead to higher levels of depression

People who are phone snubbed by others are, themselves, often turning to their smartphones and social media to find acceptance

“Although the stated purpose of technology like smartphones is to help us connect with others, in this particular instance, it does not,” David said. “Ironically, the very technology that was designed to bring humans closer together has isolated us from these very same people.”

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