Losing 10 pounds. Quitting smoking. Learn a new hobby.

It's common for people to start off the New Year with a goal. It's "a New Year, a New You," after all.

But it can be difficult to stick to resolutions. Research indicates only about 8% of people who make resolutions live up to them.

So how do you pick a New Year's resolution? Do they work? How do you stick to it?

Do they work?

"They're very individual, and to say do they work or do they not work is a hard question to answer, and it really depends on the motivation of that individual to follow through on their goal," UnityPoint Health therapist Terry Stambaugh said. "It really depends on that individual and where they're at in terms of goal setting, in making that New Year's resolution." 

Stambaugh says one of the more common resolutions he encounters are health resolutions: anything from losing more weight, eating healthier or getting more exercise. People see the new year as a blank slate.

"New Year's resolutions are helpful to people, and the bottom line is we always want to focus on a way to make ourselves happier and healthier," Genesis Psychology Associates psychologist Dr. Steve Kopp said.

How do you pick a New Year's resolution?

Being realistic about your goals is key to making sure you live up to your resolution. Kopp tells his patients to make a resolution that positions them well for the spring, when nicer weather can lead to more exercise and increased socialization.

Positivity is also important, Kopp said. "Instead of saying you're not going to do something, try to make a goal that says what you are going to do in a healthy way," he said. "So instead of saying 'I'm not going to eat snacks anymore,' say 'I'm going to eat healthy snacks when I eat snacks.'"

Making goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based is key to making it realistic to achieve them, Stambaugh said. "They have to make sure that it's meeting with that individual's capability and their practical goals. Starting those goals very slowly and incrementally: if there's something that needs to be added or needs to be changed, then be open to that change." 

How do you stick with a New Year's resolution?

It takes about 66 days of behavioral change for the behavior to become automatic, Stambaugh said. Having adequate social support is important to achieving goals. "Telling family members and friends of your goal and what you're wanting to achieve. It may help them with accountability but if you're an individual struggling with that goal, they may be able to offer assistance." 

Even if you slip, forgiveness is important.

"We have to practice forgiveness because failure is part of the process at times, we would want to identify what were those barriers that made it difficult to continue and what could be done differently to prevent failure and increase follow through," Stambaugh said. 

Failure is part of the process of learning, Kopp said. "If you take that into account and learn from it, you're more likely to maintain those changes for longer periods of time." 

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