A Quick Guide to Successful New Year's Resolutions
Health

A Quick Guide to Successful New Year's Resolutions

Every year, just as all the holiday craziness dies down and our seasonally-overworked digestive systems begin to relax, we are hit by the next wave of seasonal responsibility: New Year's resolutions! Everywhere you look, the media starts to stream advice about making and keeping our New Year's resolutions. And we begin hoping that, this year, we'll finally find a way to make those changes stick, so that next year's resolutions won't be the same ones we're making this year.
There are innumerable articles and advice columns on New Year's resolutions, so to spare you the trouble of reading them all, we've condensed the essential advice they present into this quick guide. If you are planning on making New Year's resolutions (and we'll tell you why you should), we hope these pointers help you to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.
THE FIRST QUESTION

Do New Year's Resolutions Actually Work? (Spoiler Alert: they do!)

One topic that articles on New Year's resolutions usually don't cover very well is whether or not resolutions work. If they have only marginal value, then it might not be worth the effort to reexamine our inventory of character flaws and bad habits and, despite past failures, allow ourselves to believe we can change. Instead, we'd be better off forgetting the resolutions and focusing on watching "The Grinch" for the third time this season while drinking Champagne.
As silly as the tradition of making New Year's resolutions may seem to many people, it turns out that if we take a five-minute break from eating holiday leftovers and create a list of goals, our chances of achieving those goals during the following year significantly improve.
How do we know these annual lists work? We know because of the work of John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton and the acknowledged guru of New Year's resolution research. His work on the subject, which has spanned over three decades, provides remarkable insight into how we plan and achieve our personal goals.
One of Norcross's most dramatic findings is how effective resolutions can be in helping people maintain lifestyle changes over time. In fact, according to his research, when July rolls around, people who have made New Year's resolutions are ten times more likely to still be on track with their goals than people who didn't.
Norcross's research also shows that the first three months of the process are critical when establishing new behaviors. People who can stick to their goals past this crucial three-month mark are more than 90% likely to stay on course for the rest of the year.
So before you start the new year, write down your resolutions for the upcoming year. Then, once you've finished listing your goals, pat yourself on the back: you've just taken the first big step toward achieving them.
Woman sits on a bench and makes notes.
The next question is, "are there ways to increase my chances of achieving my New Year's goals?" And the answer, once again, is "yes." However, instead of giving you a long list of tips, we've collected what researchers have advised and broken it down into three categories, representing the different stages of the process.

Making your list.

  • Actually write it down. Why? Because the research shows that, for whatever reason, it significantly improves your chances of succeeding.
  • Choose a specific goal. You may have many things you'd like to change this year, but the fewer resolutions you make, the more likely they will succeed. Ideally, it would be best to choose your most important goal and solely focus on that.
  • Choose a realistic goal. If you choose something unattainable, like "never go a day without exercise," rather than "exercise at least three days a week," you're setting yourself up for failure, which isn't fair. Be sure to make your goal something doable.

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Taking the steps.

  • Break down your goal into steps. As the saying goes, "journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," which is excellent advice for setting new habits. Changing behaviors is complex, and seeing the process as a series of steps helps to make even big changes doable.
  • Be patient with yourself. Whatever behavior you're trying to change probably took a long time to develop, so it's not surprising that it's not going to go improve overnight.
  • Don't be discouraged by missteps. It's very common to make mistakes when changing behaviors; the key is not to let them stop you from setting the mistakes aside and doing your best to get back on track.

Helpful support.

  • Let a friend know. Letting people know your goals allows them to help you along, whether in an active way, like a workout buddy, or in a passive way, like offering moral support, both of which can make a difference.
  • Join a class or ask a pro. Seeking the advice of a professional or participating with a group of like-minded people working toward a similar goal can be a big boost. Not only can they help you stick to your plan or schedule, but they can also be a great source of encouragement.
We hope you found these tips helpful, and whatever your New Year's resolutions may be, we wish you the best of success in achieving them.

If your goals are health or fitness-related, the bellicon can help.

Polls that examine New Year's resolutions always show "get in shape," "exercise more," or "lose weight" at the top of most people's choices. Which makes sense: who wouldn't want to be in better shape? Physical fitness affects every aspect of our lives, from our health, energy and even our emotional well-being.
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