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New year, new you? Tips for successful resolutions

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (AFNS) -- Have you ever gone into the new year certain this will be the year you change your life for the better, but after just a few weeks, you fall right back into the same habits? Well, you are not alone.

According to John Norcross, a distinguished professor of clinical psychology at the University of Scranton, approximately 40 to 45 percent of Americans make resolutions to better themselves in some way. However, only small percentages actually stick with their goals. Statistics show about 75 percent of people stay on track for the first week, yet less than 46 percent are still on track after six months.

There are many reasons a person might have trouble keeping up with their goals, such as stress or even just lack of motivation. To help prevent falling off track with your resolutions, here are some tips to start off your resolutions strong.

1. Be realistic: The quickest and surest way to fall short of your goals is to make them unattainable. For example, resolving you will never eat fast food again is setting yourself up to fail. Instead, strive to be realistic, such as avoiding it more than you do now. Also, don't keep your resolution a secret. Tell family and friends who will support you, maybe even find a friend with the same goal and motivate each other.

2. Plan ahead: Don't wait until the last minute to make your resolutions; otherwise, it will be based on the mindset of the particular day. It is best to have your resolutions planned well before the start of the new year. It is also wise to detail how you will avoid the temptation to break your resolution, such as talking to a friend or remembering how poorly it would affect your goal.

3. Keep a journal: Start a journal to track your progress. You can write a "pros" and "cons" list and track each small success. Short-term goals are easier to keep, and each small accomplishment will help keep you motivated toward achieving your long-term goal.

4. Reward yourself: Celebrate your success by treating yourself to something you enjoy that doesn't contradict with your resolution. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, reward your success with new clothes or a trip to the movies with a friend.

5. Don't beat yourself up: Do the best you can each and every day, taking it one day at a time. If you slip up, obsessing over it won't get you anywhere. Some resolutions can be tough to accomplish, but the rewarding feeling you get when you succeed at meeting your goal is well worth it.

6. Keep trying: If you run out of motivation after a while, don't give up. Experts say it takes 21 days for a new activity to become a habit, and six months for it to become a part of your personality. Recommit yourself for 24 hours, and soon the 24-hour increments will build up, ultimately putting you back on track. Success doesn't happen overnight, so stay motivated and patient.

There is a quote from Robert Foster Bennett that says, "A desire to be in charge of our own lives, a need for control, is born in each of us. It is essential to our mental health, and our success, that we take control."

The road to self-improvement is not an easy one, but in the end, it could very well be worth it.

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