How to rewire your brain to meet this year’s goals
During January, resolutions top many people’s to-do lists. Yet, by early February, gyms start thinning out, discipline dissolves and willpower seems to fly out the window. But, studies show that sometimes it’s more about the old cues and triggers pulling us into our old routines than a lack of willpower or knowledge. To better learn how to make – and stick to – common resolutions, we spoke with a trio of health, fitness and wellness experts.
Here’s their advice, as well as some scientific research to support the following tips:
1. Be a goal setter
When it comes to sticking to fitness resolutions, concentrate on achieving a goal.
Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and Bowflex Fitness Advisor says, “I’m a big believer in choosing an event goal like a Spartan race, charity walk or bike ride that has a specific future date.” Holland, author of Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets—Without the Personal Trainer Price Tag, explains that “Choosing something challenging gets you excited to work; these events then give your workouts direction and purpose.” Holland cites examples such as completing your first 5K race, going to the gym 10 times in a month, completing a 30-day DVD program or fitting into an old tighter pair of pants.
Constantin Bisanz, founder and CEO of ALOHA, a health and wellness lifestyle brand, seconds this idea. “When I was younger, I realized goal setting is the most powerful tool for whatever I do. Based on that, I write them down. I follow the SMART guide, which means thinking about them in a specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and timed way.”
But according to research, it’s important to personalize what kind of goal will motivate you. For instance, are you more motivated by reward or punishment? After you make those determinations, pick the goal best tailored to your own needs.
2. Establish a system of accountability
Once you’ve determined a goal, buddy up. In fact, research shows that working out in a group produces better mental, physical and emotional results.
“There is incredible strength in numbers. Working out with a trainer or coach, a friend, several friends or a bigger group will provide accountability as well as camaraderie,” Holland explains. After just a few weeks, working out with others becomes an established habit. Holland says that this group effect is one reason CrossFit has become incredibly popular. The power of accountability is a philosophy Alex Jay, Health Coach and Nutrition Expert at Juice Press, agrees is necessary when it comes to sticking to a resolution.
“A good way to stay disciplined is to find a friend or a co-worker that can hold you accountable. Most people start the new year with similar goals, so start a buddy system and send a friendly text to remind each other to stay strong,” Jay says
3. Make it attainable
“Start small and make realistic goals. Pick one thing a week to work on,” Jay explains. Her example: try one week of being dairy free. Replace your dairy and ice cream cravings with an alternative. The next week, try cutting out processed white sugars by swapping a mid-afternoon dessert with a sweet green juice as a healthier option that still satisfies.
Jay explains, “Everything can be gradual, but if you cheat and have it once it is okay. The great thing is when you are eating clean most of the time you can treat yourself.” The American Psychological Association (APA) agrees with the idea of breaking a larger goal into small steps. According to the APA, that’s the way to sustain long-term lifestyle changes.
4. Embrace change
Variety is the spice of life, while change is life’s only constant. To achieve optimum fitness results, Holland says: “The key is variation; constantly mixing it up. I am always setting new goals and trying new things in order to keep mentally stimulated and from hitting a plateau. Micro-workouts, ranging from one minute to five to 10 minutes, can be done throughout the day. Holland believes “the days of going to the gym for an hour or more every day are behind us,” meaning you can toss the “no time to work out” excuse out the window.
Change often inspires fear – even if the change is based on a resolution we created for ourselves. Sometimes, we need to overcome that fear before we can advance toward our goals. Long-term research indicates that focusing on your values rather than your fears can help. Spend 10 minutes writing about a particular value and how it positively affected you. You will find that your mind is stronger than your fears. Repeat this as often as you need to until you are settled in your new regimen.
5. Be happy in the present
Happiness starts right now, not in the future. “Set resolutions that make you happy,” Bisanz advises. The ALOHA founder went to India a few years back in order to explore Ayurvedic philosophy. “The belief is that happiness is a balance between eating right, exercising, being mindful, having great relationships, and taking care of personal development.” Bisanz adds, “The more I practiced Ayurveda, the better I felt. Anyone can learn from and adapt these principles keeping in mind to do what feels right to you.”
Meditation is an excellent way to focus on the present moment. According to research, it literally rewires your brain by affecting the gray matter. Try these meditations to reconnect with the present.
6. Keep things consistent
Consistency creates results, no matter your age. Holland’s younger clients tend to be motivated by aesthetics, wanting to tone up or shed pounds, whereas older clients aim to improve their quality of life and be injury-free.
“The great news is that it matters not what your reason for starting may be,” Holland says. “If you are consistent, you get all the great benefits.” This philosophy can also be applied to other resolutions, beyond physical activities. Making things an established part of routine ultimately leads to a lifestyle change, often in a mere three weeks.
7. Find your center
Bisanz tells us he’s a big believer in balance. “With balance, meditation, health, focus, friends, and energy, anything is possible. Our goal is to create the tools to enable people to find that balance.” Bisanz’ company incorporates five pillars – eating right, exercising, mindfulness, relationships and personal development, and yoga and meditation – to help their consumers achieve health and happiness.
8. Stay disciplined
Bisanz maintains his motivation by aiming to impact others. “I want to change the world and that motivates me! To create something to inspire people to live better, be healthier and physically active,” Bisanz says. “Motivation is key. No matter how busy I am, I always find time to meditate twice a day.”
Make the next twelve months a success in self-discipline. Whatever your resolution, following these guidelines should rewire your brain to help you accomplish whatever is on your checklist.