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How science can help you stick to that New Year's resolution

How to stay safe at gyms after COVID-19 quarantine
Posted at 2:05 PM, Dec 15, 2022

Every year, people make New Year's resolutions and every year most people break them.

A survey by OnePoll found, on average, Americans stick to their New Year’s Resolutions for 32 days. If you have ever been to the gym in January you have likely noticed that trend.

“People come in, everybody’s excited, and then they taper off,” said Brenna Callyard, a fitness professional at Chuze Fitness, a western mountain state gym chain. “They don’t really find their footing, or life comes back in, and their goals and motivations subside.”

Randi Smith, a MSU Denver psychology professor and clinical psychologist, says making smaller goals that are attainable can help people stay on track.

If you watch TV too much, don’t give it up altogether. Smith suggests cutting back by 30 minutes, and beginning a new habit in that time, perhaps going for a walk or spending quality time with the family.

“Sometimes people have these really grandiose ideas for habits and one of the big setups for failure is if I say, 'Alright, it’s a wholesale change. I’m a new human being after January 1st,” said Smith. “That’s just not how we work so the little bit part I think is really important.”

A study from the University of Scranton shows that less than 10% of New Year’s Resolutions are achieved nationwide.

“In psychology, we talk about a stages of change model where people need to think about what am I not satisfied with about how I’m living and how prepared am I to make a change in that,” said Smith.

According to Psychology Today, people form ideas about themselves that determine even their smallest actions. If an action matches that self-story, then it feels right. If it does not match, it feels wrong.

Rewiring how we think about ourselves and our values with positive self-talk and affirmations can help.

It is why trainers like Callyard can be so helpful.

“There’s a woman that comes into our team training and she just started over the summer,” said Callyard. “Just watching her growth is phenomenal and she is consistent, and she just always has a smile on her face.”

It is not easy, but science says setting smaller goals can help a person achieve that larger goal in time.

This story has been updated to include Dr. Randi Smith's title as a professor of psychology at MSU Denver.