How to Keep New Years Resolutions
By one estimate about one-fourth of all New Years resolutions have failed within the first week of January (http://bit.ly/KenPopeGratitudeCompassionKeepingResolutions). At the end of the year, less than one-tenth have been upheld fully.
Our usual perspective about “willpower” and “grit” clearly is not very effective. Actually, such rational efforts can be detrimental. It often creates an internal struggle between the part of us that wants more immediate satisfaction and the part of us persuading us to deny such impulses, wait, or at least delay. Self-control efforts tend to diminish over time. Some studies have shown that willpower, even when it brings success causes stress-related effects that impact our health and can even cause premature aging of immune system cells.
Instead, emotions like gratitude and compassion prompt us to be more patient and to persist in efforts. These emotions do not squelch our urges for pleasure, but they orient us more towards the future. By focusing more on the future, we are able to see the benefits of delayed gratification, long-term efforts and commitments to a greater purpose. By taking pride in our efforts and accomplishments, we are more likely to sustain efforts over the long-term and make more efforts on behalf of others as well.
Some studies have measured a 30% increase in sustained effort on difficult tasks when someone is motivated by pride or compassion. More exercise, eating in healthier ways, greater academic performance have all been tied to gratitude and compassion, as have less use of tobacco, alcohol, or impulsive behavior. These emotions tend to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety or depression.
So, instead of summoning up willpower, grit, and determination when making and executing resolutions, a focus instead on compassion, gratitude, and pride in genuine efforts and accomplishments is much more likely to encourage follow-through and success.
Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2018 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.