Researchers have learned a lot in the last few years that can help us keep our New Year’s resolutions. Here are three quick tips to get you started:

(1) Replace bad habits with good ones. Quitting something cold-turkey is HARD. Even quitting something slowly is challenging; once our brains have a habit hard-wired into them, that habit can be darn difficult to erase. Easier is to keep certain aspects of an old habit, replacing the undesirable part with something new.

Instead resolving to quit eating cookies and ice cream, for example, replace your usual afternoon cookie with an apple eaten at the same time, and your evening ice-cream with a handful of nuts. Or, if you’d like to stop watching so much TV, resolve to do more of something else at the time when you usually watch television. Learn more about the parts of the old habit you need to keep in my free “Cracking the Habit Code” online class!

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(2) Never say never. When temptation is right in front of you, it’s hard to turn down. But when we tell ourselves “no,” we often increase the urgency of a temptation by making it forbidden fruit. Instead of telling yourself that you can’t have that cookie, or that you can’t watch TV, tell yourself you’ll have the cookie in a few hours if you are still interested, or that you’ll record the show and watch it after you’ve gone for a walk. And then go distract yourself!

(3) Make dopamine work for you. Dopamine is a brain chemical that motivates us towards stuff we perceive as rewards. Often we are motivated by dopamine-created-cravings towards things we are trying to avoid (maybe another pair of new shoes, or that chocolate cupcake).

Fortunately, we can also use dopamine to motivate us towards behaviors that will make us healthier and happier.

When you keep your resolution, be sure to reward yourself immediately, even if you just do a little victory dance, or say “I’m awesome!” to yourself. Pretty soon, your brain will think of your resolution as a reward, and you’ll find you’re more motivated to do it.

If you want more tips like these, I hope you’ll sign up for my new (free!) online class “Cracking the Habit Code: 21 Days to Keeping Your Resolutions.” I’m so excited about this class! Loaded with worksheets and short training videos, it’ll be your guide to creating a new habit in 2013.  Class starts tomorrow, January 1st!

Let’s make 2013 the happiest year yet!

Here’s what was on the blog in December… 

Main Dish:
3 New Year’s Resolutions that Will Make You Happier
This year, skip the New Year’s diet and do something fun.

Are We Wired to Want Stuff?
Neuroscience explains why kids get the holiday gimmees.

Managing Stress
Why your stress matters—and how to manage it

Surviving the Holidays
Because it isn’t always all fun & games

Is yelling the new spanking?
Rona’s Guide to Yelling Less - Holiday Edition

Managing routines, sleep, & sugar so kids can thrive
Providing more structure over the holidays

The Art of Setting Limits
Knowing when to hold your ground

A Greater Good post you might have missed…
Sandy Hook
Four reminders of human strength and goodness after the worst school shooting in American history.

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