Making New Year’s Resolutions?
Don’t we all? This time-honored tradition is a rite of passage at the end of every year. It’s an opportunity for us to begin fresh and be inspired to make much-needed changes. What’s particularly daunting, however, is where to begin.
Why Do We Often Fail to Keep Our Resolutions?
Studies have shown that only about 10% of adults who make resolutions manage to keep them. There may be many reasons why we don’t often take New Year’s resolutions seriously:
- Resolutions that are too ambitious; we may be setting ourselves up for failure by aiming too high. If a resolution takes more than 6 months to achieve, there’s a good chance that we won’t follow it through.
- Making a long, complicated list of resolutions; if we overwhelm ourselves with too many goals, it’s easier to rationalize why we couldn’t reach our goals.
Starting the New Year off on the Right Foot
The secret to winning at New Year’s resolutions is knowing what to work on. After all, we’re less likely to succeed if we make drastic changes all at once. The secret is in knowing which challenges you want to tackle. Here are a few ideas;
- Work on one resolution at a time. It’s hard enough quitting smoking, but if you add going to the gym and changing your diet, there’s a good chance that you’ll be discouraged and give up.
- Choose a goal that can be accomplished quickly – say, within 2-4 weeks. That way, you’ll have instant gratification which will spur you on to complete more difficult goals.
- Similarly, begin with a goal that is relatively easy to accomplish. They are no less significant for being relatively easy.
- Choose a goal that can be broken down into smaller parts and list specific behaviors. Then repeat that behavior over and over.
- Put your goals on paper. Better yet, add them to your monthly calendar. You’re more likely to stay on target if you can see your plan. A journal can be a helpful tool for this purpose.
Some Of The Most Popular Resolutions And How To Keep Them
- Exercising more – this is by far one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most difficult to stick to. Without a Personal Trainer, it can be hard to stay motivated. By following the suggestions above, you can make it easier. For example, commit to a 30-Day Challenge, place exercise equipment where you will see it every day, and add specific behaviors like taking the stairs or parking your car further away when shopping. Reward yourself for a job well done with a favorite movie, massage, or night out with friends. Remind yourself why exercise is important. And be patient. Results don’t come overnight.
- Not stressing the small stuff – this attitude change could actually lengthen your life. Optimists tend to live longer than pessimists, and they have more fun! Practice making lists – listing your blessings, pros vs cons, and post inspirational quotes. Keep them in your wallet and read them regularly. Find someone who is going through difficult times and cheer them up. Keep a diary in order to pinpoint your negative self-talk. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” Any or all of these exercises can help you change your outlook from glass-half-empty to glass-half-full.
- Getting a good night’s sleep – this seems to be more and more elusive, perhaps in part due to our over-dependence on electronic devices. Exposure to these devices can affect our sleep cycle, leading to restless sleep. Try watching the news in the morning instead of just before bead. Keep your bedroom cool and free of electronics. Use essential oils like Lavender or supplements like Melatonin according to instructions. Maintain a regular bedtime ritual that helps to relax you. And see a doctor if your insomnia is severe.
- Eating a healthier diet – this one is often on the top of everyone’s list, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Begin by eliminating one food at a time. Do not skip meals or cut too many calories; it doesn’t work and it can cause illness. Replace an unhealthy snack with a healthy, tasty alternative. Keep a food diary or use a smartphone app – but only if you can stick with it! Keeping things simple and taking it slow can help you stay on track and avoid disappointment.
So now that you know how to do New Year’s resolutions right, what are you waiting for? Good luck!
The psychology of New Year’s resolutions
Huffington Post article on New Year’s resolutions
Johns Hopkins article about making healthy New Year’s resolutions
Another New Year’s Eve has come and gone.
It’s only human for us to see the new year as an opportunity to shed bad habits and learn new ones. More often than not, we are invariably disappointed as we see our resolutions fade after just a few weeks. We chastise ourselves for not having more willpower. We wonder why, year after year, our efforts are thwarted by tight schedules, family responsibilities, illness, and other distractions. And so the cycle repeats itself every year.
But there are a few New Year’s resolutions that are worth making each and every year. Those are the ones that require little effort on our part, but which yield big rewards in terms of more knowledge, better health, and what we call “conscious consumerism.”
What is “conscious consumerism”, anyway?
According to the Network for Business Sustainability, a conscious consumer purchases products or services that are produced in a more socially and/or environmentally responsible way. Surveys show that most consumers would like to consider themselves “conscious consumers”, but they may not know where to start.
So what does this have to do with our New Year’s resolutions? Here are a few ideas:
1) Learn to read labels.If you’re accustomed to reading your food labels, this may sound easy, but personal care labels are not like food labels (as complicated as those might be sometimes). Cosmetic manufacturers may only use the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) names, which leaves consumers wondering what these ingredients actually are. Most, however, will also include the common names in parentheses. These are generally familiar to us (like oils, butter, alcohols, and essential oils). The Consolidated Label website has a few good articles that help to decipher the mysteries of label-reading when it comes to personal care products. In addition to ingredients, many symbols like the Leaping Bunny or the Certified Organic label are used by companies to GMO-free, etc.
2) Know what the ingredients do. This may not be as easy as it sounds, given the dozens of ingredients used in personal care products. It would impossible for us to be familiar with the thousands of ingredients on the market today. Even more difficult is knowing which of them actually cause potential harm. Consumers can find information by going to the Environmental Working Group’s website. Not only do they print useful pocket guides, but their database lists many commonly used personal care products and levels of toxicity for the ingredients that they contain. You may have heard of the common culprits – parabens, phthalates, triclosan, BPA, sulfates, formaldehyde, toluene, and others. Studies on umbilical cord blood have found sometimes higher levels of industrial chemicals in the blood there than in their mother’s blood. “Body burden” – the study of chemicals stored in the human body and their composition – has also been studied. You can read about Bill Moyer’s body burden test by visiting this article on the PBS website. Between 40 and 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbed into our blood stream or stored in our fat cells, never to leave our bodies. This accumulation can spell trouble if what we’re being exposed to has negative side effects.
3) Don’t keep personal care products for long periods of time. Many of our products have numbers stamped on them which indicate their shelf life. Regardless, however, products that touch your eyes should be replaced every few months. If a product has changed color or if it has a strange odor, throw it out. Naturally derived products, in particular, which do not use parabens can be refrigerated or labeled so that they don’t sit for longer than 6 months-1 year. If in doubt, throw it out! Alternatively, small jars/bottles will be used up more quickly.
4) Simplify your personal care routine. These days, many men and women are tempted to try the latest personal care “system” with multiple products for face, body, hair, etc. Use them if you must, but be sure to follow 1 and 2 above! Keep in mind that you can also find products that are multi-purpose, like our body balms. Not only are the ingredients identifiable, but they can be used from head to toe, on all family members, and year-round. This can save valuable time and money at a time when you’re looking to limit the number of potentially harmful products coming into your home. In that way, you can purchase products targeting specific problems only when you need them.
5) As questions. Responsible companies will welcome any questions regarding their products, their ingredients, or how they are sourced. For example, ingredients and products coming from China MUST be tested on animals. It may not be obvious from a label whether or not a product is manufactured in the USA or abroad. And with all of the companies being bought up by multinational corporations, it’s more important than ever to find out if this means that the formulas have been changed or if a product is no longer vegan or cruelty-free.
By taking just a few steps towards making more enlightened purchases, we can go a long way towards providing cleaner, safer, and simpler personal solutions for ourselves and our family members. We can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution than that.
Network for Business Sustainability; Conscious Consumerism article
Consolidated Label webpage label reading articles