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Psychology professor offers tips on keeping New Year’s resolutions

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 9:48 a.m. CDT

Got a New Year’s resolution in mind? Northern Illinois University psychology professor Amanda Durik offers three motivational science-based tips that could help you accomplish your goals.

NIU psychology faculty regularly contribute to the Psychology Today website, where Durik blogged on the topic. She said accumulating research in the science of motivation suggests that three general strategies might help.

1. Connect the desired behavior to core values.

“When people think about behaviors more abstractly, they find temptations less tempting,” Durik said. So, instead of thinking of specific behavior such as, throw out the cigarettes, it’s better to make the connection to more abstract personal values, such as, live a healthier life.

2. Prepare in advance for the moment to act.

Individuals can create a link to desired behaviors by visualizing anticipated situations and planning specific behaviors. For example, a smoker with the resolve to quit might think, “When I feel the urge to grab a cigarette, I’ll grab a piece of gum, instead.”

3. Focus initially on progress made.

At least at first, Durik said, it’s best to focus on the gains you’ve made toward your goal, rather than how much more work needs to be done. For instance, the recovering smoker should initially focus on how many smoking opportunities have been successfully avoided, rather than dwell on how many more there are to cope with in the future.

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