As a university student, Katy Milkman played tennis and loved going to the gym. But when he started graduate school, his exercise routine began to fail.
"At the end of a long day at school, I was exhausted," says Milkman. "Frankly, the last thing I wanted to do was crawl into the gym. What I really wanted to do was watch TV or read Harry Potter."
What brought her back to regular workouts was something she called "temptation grouping." He decided to enjoy his love for the magic light only while he was in the gym, listening to audiobooks with headphones.
Milkman, now a professor at the Wharton School of Business who specializes in human decision making, says that when it comes to making a change in behavior, the trick is to combine what you fear with something you love.
Are you looking for more tips like these to keep your New Year resolution up? Whatever your goals, we have ideas that can make your achievement a bit easier. Here are six "life recipes" for good mental health research that NPR reporters covered this year:
Cultivate the joy
Feel stressed? Only eight techniques, a "life skills buffet," can significantly improve well-being, say scientists who taught the techniques to caregivers of people with dementia. After learning techniques such as how to keep a gratitude diary and how to quickly rethink negative experiences in a positive light, these family caregivers reported an impressive decrease in both stress and anxiety.
Prepare to fail. It is part of the success
If you're trying to maintain a new routine, be it exercising more, eating less sugar or learning to play the ukulele, academics studying human behavior say the key is to accept failure as part of the process. Hope that at some point you are wrong. And when that happens, don't give in to the "what the hell" effect, the feeling that, since you've missed a session, your whole plan is a failure. Just take steps back to your goal and don't hit yourself.
Help an anxious couple in the right way
You can support a couple who has an anxiety disorder without sinking, therapists say: First, don't try to fix things right away. Instead, recognize your loved one's perspective. "You can go to logic, but not before the person feels that they are not being judged and … misunderstood," says licensed psychologist Carolyn Daitch. It is also important to learn to keep the limits smoothly.
Do you feel more angry? Get a depression check
Many patients, and doctors, associate depression with feelings of hopelessness, sadness and lack of motivation. But a growing number of psychiatrists say that depression is also behind some hypercritical tendencies and outbursts of anger. The good news: this type of irritability responds to advice and medication.
Redefine the exercise: move a little, often
Maria Godoy, one of the NPR editors, learned to love the exercise when she realized that every little bit counts. "I rephrased what I thought as exercise," she says. Aspire with pleasure, climb the stairs: these small explosions of movement throughout the day add up, like pennies in a piggy bank.
Take a minute today to consider the purpose of your life.
Having a purpose in life seems to have a more powerful impact on reducing the risk of premature death of a person than exercising regularly, quitting smoking or reducing alcohol consumption, research suggests. You may find the greatest meaning in protecting the environment, raising good children, making music or playing lives through your volunteer work. The purpose of his life does not seem to matter, a growing body of research suggests. What matters is that you feel you have one.