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Tricks to make your New Year's resolutions stick

Jan. 6, 2018—First you make them, then you break them. If this sounds like your track record for New Year's resolutions, there are ways to help make them stick this year.

By some estimates, only 8 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions actually keep them. This likely means many unused gym memberships in February every year. If you're still smoking or your weight didn't improve in 2017, for example, you're not alone.

Be clear and realistic

But don't be defeated. There are tricks to make resolutions stick. Two important ones: Be specific, and don't overreach.

Scrap those fuzzy resolutions such as "I'm going to get fit" or "I'm going to eat healthy." Substitute them with clear, realistic goals such as "I'll exercise for 30 minutes at least three days a week" or "I'll eat five or more servings of fruits or vegetables every day."

A successful resolution is all about the details. These can make you accountable. And you won't set yourself up for failure with vague goals.

These tips can help too:

Change one behavior at a time. Let that behavior become a habit before you tackle another one. Most unhealthy behaviors develop gradually. And for staying power, it's best to change them gradually.

Share your resolutions. The encouragement of friends and family can help you stay motivated. It's harder to break a promise to yourself when those around you are aware of what you're trying to accomplish. You might even pair up with a "resolution buddy"—someone who shares the same goal.

Focus on "why." If you want to stop smoking, what's your motivation? To reduce health risks? Save money? Be a good example for others? Whatever your goal, list your reasons and let them inspire you.

Wait out the urges. Most urges actually pass quickly. So before you give in, let 10 minutes go by—and then another 10 if necessary. But don't wait idly. Distract yourself. Get up and move around or do something fun.

Bounce back. Don't give up or scold yourself harshly if you slip up. A setback doesn't mean you're a failure. Stay positive and learn from it. Ask yourself: "What can I do differently to avoid this happening again?" And instead of dwelling on a setback, congratulate yourself on any step forward you've already made.

Making New Year's resolutions is easy, but keeping them requires patience and perseverance. To learn more, read this article: "Make Your Resolutions a Lasting Success."

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