Trick Your Brain into Keeping Your Resolutions for 2019
We have all been down that path. We have drawn up lists of things we are going to achieve this New Year, and then bolted right out within a few months (or days). Making and breaking resolutions are so common a tradition that most of us don’t even take them seriously today.
But let’s think about it a moment. We make resolutions because we need to do those things; these are positive changes that we have identified as beneficial to us, and most probably crucial as well. So why do we bail on it so easily?
Why we break resolutions
Our brains are programmed to respond any change in its routine with the “survival mode”, because it is made to work through habits and any change of habit or new experience signals threat. This causes your cortisol levels to rise, and slows down blood supply to your prefrontal cortex. Now, it is this very area that regulates our executive functions; creativity, emotions and communication – the very things that actually could help motivate you in keeping those resolutions. So your brain effectively sabotages your attempt to positive change.
How to trick your brain into not breaking resolutions
- Refine your goals
Don’t say “I’ll get in shape”, say “I’ll shed five pounds in three months”. Don’t say “read more books, say “read two books every month.” Vague goals prevent us from having clear directions and setting up strategies. The bigger and vaguer the goal, the more stressed your brain is going to be about it, and the quicker you will lose motivation. Don’t freak out your brain with something huge and lofty. Give it smaller and specific milestones it can visualize and get behind without being too stressed.
- Plan ahead
Choose a strategy, and be realistic about it. Don’t give yourself resolutions you know deep down you cannot keep. Plan your milestones into weeks, gather resources you need to complete that milestone, and plan your schedule for the week ahead to make time for forming those new habits. Ease your brain into it step by step, and you can avoid being overwhelmed.
- Connect it to another daily habit
Need to walk more? Walk to your grocery shop every day at a brisker pace. Need to incorporate that new green smoothie in your diet? Make the smoothie while the water for your coffee is boiling every morning. Your brain will start associating these old activities with the new activities you are trying to incorporate and the old ones will start working as a cue for you to do the new one.
- Reward yourself
Reward yourself with something each time you complete a milestone. It does not need to be something big. Watch an episode of your favorite series after you complete studying one chapter. Treat yourself to a red velvet cake when you’ve shed a pound. This will activate the reward circuit in your brain, and make it more eager to accomplish the milestones in anticipation of the reward.
- Remember what you stand to lose
Researches show, that we are more likely to be motivated by a fear of loss than a promise of gain. Use your natural risk aversion instinct to motivate your brain into change. Instead of thinking how good you’ll look in that dress when you’re slimmer, remember being overweight is making you less fit for your annual trekking trip.
Our brains are slaves of habit. Your brain is not wired for drastic changes; it is designed to keep repeating the actions that have kept you alive until now. It takes an average of 66 days for your brain to fully wired into any new habit, and you have to give your brain that much time. So ease your brain into it with these tricks, and in about two months you won’t even have to think about it again. Here’s to a happy and healthy new year to you and your new resolutions!