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Psychologist explains how to make and stick to your New Year's resolutions

There is a psychology behind goal setting. Dr. Stefanie Paliatsos is explaining how to be successful with our resolutions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s time to make those New Year's resolutions. Before you put them in writing only to disappoint yourself in a year, know there is a psychology to goal setting that could help you keep your resolutions.

Or should we say goals? Baptist Health psychologist Dr. Stefanie Paliatsos works with patients undergoing major life changes and weight-loss journeys. Here are her pointers for setting a successful goal for the new year:

  • Write it down, and put it where you can see it every day.
  • Be specific with every step of how to get there.
  • Remember your why. Why are YOU doing this for yourself?

With those three steps in mind, she also says give yourself grace.

“Knowing going into it, I am not going to be perfect," Paliatsos says. "There’s going to be setbacks, but it is what do I do with them, what can I learn from it? Even if you take three steps forward, one step back, you’re still two steps forward.”

The top three most popular resolutions for 2021, according to a Statista survey, were exercise more, lose weight and save money. 

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Palliatsos says to achieve any of those or other resolutions, you need to think about habit forming. She says a study found on average it can take someone 66 days to form a habit, but the time varies for everyone. 

Think of driving to work. You get in your car. You don’t think about the directions. It’s a pattern because you do it every day. 

Repetition and consistency are key. 

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What is your New Year’s resolution/goal?

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"It took a long time for a habit to be formed," Paliatsos says. "You're not going to be undoing that in the matter of days or weeks.”

She says don't jump into your resolution too hard at first. You might wear yourself out and give up.

Instead, she says, turn it into a goal with step-by-step instructions. 

Ask yourself "Why didn’t it work last year?"

Here are the common mistakes Paliatsos says people make that ultimately lead them to tossing away their resolutions.

  • Your resolutions are too vague. You need to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
  • You are not eliminating the obstacles in the way. She says if you want to give up drinking, avoid hanging out with your friends at bars. 
  • You're not learning from the past.

“If your goal is, OK, once again my goal is to start exercising, but the past four years I haven’t done that, ask yourself why," Paliatsos said. 

She says Jan. 1 is just another day. You can start your goals whenever, and if you get a setback, don't wait until next year to try again.

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