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Every January most of us make resolutions to change our health and our lives for the better. And before every February, most of us have forgotten them. If you want to make resolutions you can actually keep, here are 10 suggestions that really work.

Back in 2007, the management firm FranklinCovey surveyed 15,000 people about their New Year's resolutions. The majority of the thousands of people who participated in the survey reported that in the coming year they intended to lose weight or save money.

But when the research firm followed up with the 15,000 people it had surveyed earlier that year, it found that 80% had failed to keep their resolutions for even half of the year, and 1/3 had given up before February.

Still, about 1 person in 5 manages to make resolutions and stick to them. What makes the difference

Here are 10 ways people who decide to change their lives for the better follow through.

1. People who stick to their resolutions don't try to accomplish a whole-life makeover in just one year.

Willpower, it turns out, is a limited resource. It takes mental and sometimes even physical energy to force yourself to change your daily habits. When you make a long list of resolutions for the new year, you are able to devote less effort to each one. When you make a short list or even just one resolution for changes in your life, you are far more likely to succeed.

2. People who reach their goals tend to have "launching pads" for day to day success.

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend finding important papers, or finding the right accessory to go with your outfit, or just fumbling around for your keys? People who get things done usually have central locations where they lay out everything they need for the next day. This location sometimes will get messy, but having a single place where everyone in the household can find everything they need for the day first thing in the morning makes achieving other goals a lot easier.

3. People who follow through on weight loss resolutions formulate their goals in a way that aren't all about them.

By far the most common New Year's resolution in most of the world is losing weight.

This is a resolution that usually falls by the wayside by February, unless it's a resolution made that isn't all about what you eat or don't eat, whether you lose weight or not, whether you can fit into new clothes.

One way to make a weight loss resolution that you can keep long term is to resolve to share your lunch with a friend. Or to make a habit of sharing entrees with a like-minded friend when you go to restaurants. Or, whether it's part of your religion or not, to fast one day a week and to meet with other people who have similar goals. Weight Watchers works great for some people, but there are many ways to make your own group for weight loss success.

4. Do something new, anything new.

New experiences activate the brain's production of the reward chemical dopamine.

Even when you aren't seeing immediate results from your resolutions, simply trying new activities instead of the same old-same old will give you a feeling of success. So, if you don't dance, reinforce your diet goals with dance for your exercise routine. Or if you are resolving to cut back on smoking, try a hookah, or e-cigarettes, or switch brands. Novelty is often its own reward.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Hofmann, Wilhelm, Baumeister, Roy F., Förster, Georg, Vohs, Kathleen D. Everyday temptations: An experience sampling study of desire, conflict, and self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 102(6). Jun 2012, 1318-1335.
  • Kane S, Conus S, Haltom D, et al. A shoulder health survey: correlating behaviors and comorbidities with shoulder problems. Sports Health. 2010. 2(2):119-134.
  • Photo courtesy of Photos public domain by Wikimedia Commons : commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New-Year_Resolutions_list.jpg
  • Photo courtesy of Keith Williamson by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/6610940949/

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