This New Year's, Say 'Yes!'

New Year’s is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and a chance to do things differently. When crafting a New Year’s resolution, say yes to things you’d like to do instead of no to things you want to cut out. Positive resolutions are easier to stick to, and can add to your health and well-being.  

Want an example? Let’s say you made a New Year’s resolution to cut out all sweets. Now imagine that mid-afternoon slump, the time of day you’re accustomed to having a little piece of chocolate or a cookie. But since you made your New Year’s resolution to avoid sweets, you start wondering how you'll make it through the next few hours, much less the next few days or weeks.

You wonder why you just can't stop thinking about that little dose of sweetness. It’s the same concept as telling yourself, 'whatever you do, don’t think of the elephant.' Impossible to get the image of an elephant out of your head, right? Making a negative New Year’s resolution is like saying 'Whatever you do, don’t think of having a sweet.'

“Our subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between the 'do' and the 'don’t',” said Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Ashley Rosales. “When we say ‘don’t do this,’ or ‘I’ll never do that,’ your brain doesn’t know how to turn off that thought. So you’re actually thinking about and ultimately fixating on the one thing you want to avoid, and that's what you end up wanting.”  

That’s why saying ‘no’ to everything is almost impossible and many restrictive New Year's resolutions fail. For more success, Rosales says to focus on the things to say 'yes' to; what you’re going to do, add or include. For instance, scientific researchconfirms the many health benefits that milk and milk products provide at breakfast and throughout the day, so adding some milk to your morning coffee is a 'yes' goal you might consider. This positive approach is central to Dairy Council of California's nutrition philosophy.

Make your resolutions empowering, Rosales suggested. This can include making tiny resolutions that are easy to meet, giving you the confidence and motivation to continue meeting your goals. Other 'yes' goals, like the ones listed below, might automatically push out things you wanted to get rid of, anyway.  

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Add a serving of fruit or vegetables to breakfast
  • Park at the far end of the lot and walk to the store
  • Drink milk with dinner
  • Walk 20 minutes per day

These are tiny resolutions that are easy to stick with, giving you the confidence to continue with them, and to add more healthy behaviors, as well. By saying 'yes' in your resolution, you may be naturally cancelling out all those things you wanted to say 'no' to. 

Curious what kind of New Year’s resolutions a dietitian makes? Rosales says she likes to make resolutions that impact her whole health, changes that ripple in various parts of her life. “My choice is always one I can get the most bang for my buck from,” she said. “My goal in 2014 is to attend yoga classes twice a week. It makes me feel like I have time to myself, it’s very meditative, and I come home feeling totally refreshed. I also come home wanting to have a really balanced dinner." 

Rosales also likes to make resolutions for herself all year long, checking in with herself to make sure her behaviors are benefiting her. “New Year’s is a great time to be aware of making resolutions, but set in place that constant check-in with yourself,” she said. 

As you move forward with your positive resolutions, be sure to check out our other tips on creating successful New Year's resolutions and getting the year #Off2aGoodStart at HealthyEating.org/NewYear.

 

 

Reference:
1. Fogg BJ. A behavior model for persuasive design. Persuasive 2009:40.