Lose weight. Get in shape. Be on time. Eat better. Quit smoking. Read more. Watch less television. The list goes on and on. What are you changing for 2017?
In 1989, a study by Dr. John Norcross of the University of Scranton (it’s been widely published and cited in magazines, newspapers and websites) found that 77 percent of people were unable to keep their New Year’s resolutions for more than a week. Research done years later showed many people still can’t abide by them for seven days.
“It’s a new year, a new beginning,” said Dr. Tiffany Griffiths, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Clarks Summit. “People think that since it’s a new year, they can just start over, but people don’t realize the difficulty in changing.”
She said change is difficult, especially when it comes to habits and lifestyles that are ingrained.
“People want the easy way out,” she said, “and sometimes taking the easy way out is staying the same, even if it’s painful.”
Griffiths said if you want to make a New Year’s resolution and you don’t want to break it, there are ways to keep them.
“First, you have to recognize the neurobiology,” she said. “It requires about three weeks to one month before you can see changes and to lay down the foundation. Every day, you have to do an a, b and c and you can’t deviate from that because what you’re doing is you’re laying down a new pathway in the brain that essentially is becoming your new habit.”
She said a lot of people will step away from those changes in the beginning, which essentially breaks the resolution.
“We almost have to be prepared for the internal battle that’s occurring,” she said. “It’s not just external, meaning, ‘hey, I want to eat that,’ a lot of it is just pre-conditioned because they are things we have been doing for so long.”
Griffiths said if you truly want to stick to your goals, it’s a good idea to have a support system. Family, friends, co-workers — whatever and wherever you can find them.
“It’s accountability,” she said. “Often times if you’re dealing with more than one person, it becomes more difficult because now you have everyone checking up on you. It’s probably best to have just one person checking up on you, which often leads to more success.”
The main thing is to realize just how difficult change is.
“That’s just a human thing,” she said. “Try to educate yourself as much as possible about how the brain functions. We’re not really in the driver’s seat. There are pathways in our brain that are very, very powerful.”