5 Strategies for Highly Effective New Year's Resolutions

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So, instead of trying to completely terminate a habit like nighttime snacking, Dean suggested replacing the junk food for which you normally reach with some fruit. Studies show this is often more successful than trying to suppress the temptation to eat altogether because it dampens your obsession and allows you to conserve your limited reserves of self-control.

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Keep on repeating

Just how long does it take to create a new habit? In a study carried out at University College London, 96 participants were asked to make an everyday behavior such as drinking more water, eating more fruit or exercising into a regular practice. More than half the participants couldn't hack it and quickly dropped out, but those who kept at it took an average of 66 days before the new routine became automatic and subconscious.

There was some variation: Simple tasks such as drinking a glass of water before breakfast took only about 20 days to take hold. Exercise proved to be the most stubborn goal; one participant who lasted until the end of the study took 84 days to make doing 50 sit ups a day a regular occurrence.

Dean said that each time you repeat the same action, consider it a mini-victory and know that it moves you one step closer to making your resolution an official habit.

"It's like climbing a very steep hill," he said. "It's hard to start but eventually it levels off and by the time you get to the top, it's a lot easier to keep going."

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