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Getting Back on Track with Resolutions

8 Oct 2014

Kathleen Marie Garness vowed to lose 25 to 30 pounds last January. Now nearly seventh months later, she’s lost, maybe six pounds, and she feels like a failure.

Garness is not alone. Nearly half of Americans make resolutions every Jan. 1, according to a recent study by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Alas, only eight percent are successful in achieving those goals, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

But health providers can help people get back on track, as well as help them refine their goals, so they are more reasonable.

Dr. Jon B. Silk of Premier HealthNet.com said people should set small, short-term goals. Little goals add up over time, he said. Big goals just set people up for failure.

Garness, for example, lost eight pounds the first quarter of the year, but she gained two pounds back and hasn’t been able to lose any more since. Now, her goals are more reasonable.

“Now, I buy salads and craisins and pass up the ice cream aisle in the grocery store,” said Garness of Chicago. She also goes online to read daily reminders from flylady.net, which help her keep her health on track.

People also can get motivated by adding apps to their smartphones. For example, GymPact asks you to set a goal to work out so much per week. If you don’t meet that goal, you pay a small amount. If you do meet your goal, you receive money from those who are on GymPact and not meeting their goals.

Recent research has shown that people can get motivated to return to their goals throughout the year. Studies done at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania introduced a concept called “the fresh-start effect.”

According to the research, you don’t just have to make resolutions on Jan. 1, you can use other times to start anew — on your birthday, perhaps, or when you change jobs or celebrate holidays with family and friends.

Any of those situations can nudge you to change behavior, according to researchers Dai Hengchen, Katherine Milkman and Jason Riis. In their study, they refer to the phrase: “temporal landmarks open new mental accounts.”

In other words, using milestones in your life can help get you back on track with goals.

The American Psychological Association (APA) also advises those who make resolutions to talk about them. Sharing your ups and downs with family and friends or with your family physician can be helpful in keeping you on track.

Finally, the APA advises people not to get discouraged, realizing they will experience setbacks and can get back on track to reach their goals.

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