Advertising
Advertising

Why New Year’s Resolutions Make You Unhappy

Why New Year’s Resolutions Make You Unhappy

The Brain Science Behind Why Long Lists Don’t Work

So, you have 10 New Year’s resolutions? This year for sure you will: lose weight, quit smoking, jog daily, or meditate.  According to British psychologist Richard Wiseman, 88% of all resolutions end in failure, no matter how many years they are repeatedly tried.  Now, neuroscience is telling us why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. It turns out the longer the list, the more likely you are to fail.

But just why are our old habits so hard to break?

The Science of Resolutions

The brain area largely responsible for willpower is the prefrontal cortex (located just behind the forehead). This area of the brain is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.

Advertising

An experiment at Stanford by Dr. Baba Shiv revealed that if you load down this decision making part of the brain with extra tasks, it becomes fatigued. When it is tired or overloaded, is more likely to give in to temptation. Like any muscle, you can only ask it to do so much. So, the take home message is: Keep it short, and don’t overpromise.

Rewards or Punishment?

The brain contains an area referred to as the reward system.  This area is the brain’s most primitive motivational system, one that evolved to propel us toward action and consumption.

How does the reward system compel us to act?  When the brain recognizes an opportunity for reward, it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine.  Dopamine tells the rest of the brain what to pay attention to.  A dopamine rush doesn’t create happiness itself, but rather the feeling of arousal.  For more on this topic read Josh Freedman’s blog at Six Seconds, the Emotional Intelligence Network.

Advertising

Does all this mean we can’t break ANY bad habits? No. We just can’t break them all at once. The idea of willpower is that we can force ourselves to change. This is forgetting one key ingredient to changing our behavior: self-awareness. Until we recognize our patterns and what role our habits play in our lives, we can’t change them. Emotional intelligence, or being smart with emotions, begins with self-knowledge. Here are some EQ (emotional quotient) ways to learn more about what drives you to engage in activities that may not be good for you.

Here are two ways to succeed in changing to more positive behaviors:

Pare your list down…

…to one or two things that really make you happy: for example, rather than “I will jog 10 miles a day” (and you hate jogging 1 mile), list, “I will walk with a friend tomorrow evening and talk about our plans for our trip to Hawaii.”

Focus on one area of your life you could improve:

How do I feel about the various domains of my life (e.g., work, family, community, spirit)?

Advertising

Feelings, of course, provide outstanding data for this reflection.

Where I feel anxious, stressed, worried… perhaps I’m missing some crucial link.

Where I feel sad, lonely, or disconnected, perhaps I can re-invest.

Advertising

Where I feel excited, hopeful, energized, perhaps I can find a clear next step.

Focus is about choosing where to commit that most precious resource: time.  To focus is to let go of lesser priorities.  To say “no” so you can more fully say “yes.”

Instead of a specific “resolution,” what’s one area of your life or work you’d like to put in focus.  One value you’d like to strengthen?

If the goal is to lead a life well lived, perhaps being happy all the time is not the goal, but to live an examined, conscious life that would make our families proud of us. Here’s to a happy, stress-free new year!

Featured photo credit: Running, outdoor, fit/BillionPhotos.com via media.lifehack.org

More by this author

Three Tips for Controlling Your Emotions Why New Year’s Resolutions Make You Unhappy 3 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Bullying

Trending in Communication

1 If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can? 2 Having an Emotional Breakdown? 15 Ways to Re-Center Yourself 3 10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts 4 What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers? 5 Need Morning Motivation? 30 Routines to Help You Start Afresh

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 17, 2019

10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

Positive thinking can lead to a lot of positive change in your life. Developing an optimistic outlook can be good for both your physical and mental health.

But sometimes, certain situations arise in life that makes it hard to keep a positive outlook. Take steps to make positive thinking become more like your second nature and you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

Here are 10 ways to make thinking positive thoughts easy:

1. Spend Time with Positive People

If you surround yourself with constant complainers, their negativity is likely to rub off on you.

Spend time with positive friends and family members to increase the likelihood that their positive thinking habits will become yours too. It’s hard to be negative when everyone around you is so positive.

Advertising

2. Take Responsibility for Your Behavior

When you encounter problems and difficulties in life, don’t play the role of the victim. Acknowledge your role in the situation and take responsibility for your behavior.

Accepting responsibility can help you learn from mistakes and prevent you from blaming others unfairly.

3. Contribute to the Community

One of the best ways to feel good about what you have, is to focus on what you have to give.

Volunteer in some manner and give back to the community. Helping others can give you a new outlook on the world and can assist you with positive thinking.

4. Read Positive and Inspirational Materials

Spend time each day reading something that encourages positive thinking. Read the Bible, spiritual material, or inspirational quotes to help you focus on what’s important to you in life. It can be a great way to start and end your day.

Advertising

Some recommendations for you:

5. Recognize and Replace Negative Thoughts

You won’t be successful at positive thinking if you’re still plagued by frequent negative thoughts. Learn to recognize and replace thoughts that are overly negative. Often, thoughts that include words like “always” and “never” signal that they aren’t true.

If you find yourself thinking something such as, “I always mess everything up,” replace it with something more realistic such as, “Sometimes I make mistakes but I learn from them.”

There’s no need to make your thoughts unrealistically positive, but instead, make them more realistic.

6. Establish and Work Toward Goals

It’s easier to be positive about problems and setbacks when you have goals that you’re working toward. Goals will give you motivation to overcome those obstacles when you encounter problems along the way. Without clear goals, it’s harder to make decisions and gauge your progress.

Advertising

Learn to set SMART goals to help you achieve more.

7. Consider the Consequences of Negativity

Spend some time thinking about the consequences of negative thinking. Often, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, a person who thinks, “I probably won’t get this job interview,” may put less effort into the interview. As a result, he may decrease his chances of getting the job.

Create a list of all the ways negative thinking impacts your life. It likely influences your behavior, your relationships, and your feelings. Then, create a list of the ways in which positive thinking could be beneficial.

8. Offer Compliments to Others

Look for reasons to compliment others. Be genuine in your praise and compliments, but offer it frequently. This will help you look for the good in other people.

Advertising

9. Create a Daily Gratitude List

If you start keeping a daily gratitude list, you’ll start noticing exactly how much you have to be thankful for. This can help you focus on the positive in your life instead of thinking about all the bad things that have happened in the day.

Getting in the habit of showing an attitude of gratitude makes positive thinking more of a habit. Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

10. Practice Self-Care

Take good care of yourself and you’ll be more equipped to think positively.

Get plenty of rest and exercise and practice managing your stress well. Taking care of your physical and mental health will provide you with more energy to focus on positive thinking.

Learn about these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

More About Staying Positive

Featured photo credit: DESIGNECOLOGIST via unsplash.com

Read Next