January 9, 2017
Last Updated:
April 28, 2021

The Science-Backed Trick to Keeping Your New Year's Resolution

It’s officially 2017, and many of us are planning to detox from the holiday indulgences by eating healthier, exercising more or losing weight. Of course, we should strive to be health-conscious all year, but January is a great time to hit the reset button. Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be tricky, though—only about 8% of people actually do.

At Integrative Nutrition, we believe that setting intentions, rather than actual resolutions, can be helpful in sticking to your goals. But if you are a resolutions person, a recent study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that immediately rewarding yourself can help you achieve long-term goals.

Sounds like great motivation!

In “Immediate Rewards Predict Adherence to Long-Term Goals,” Chicago Booth Professor Ayelet Fishbach and Booth Ph.D. student Kaitlin Woolley examined five studies that followed individuals’ study habits, exercise routines and vegetable consumption. They found that in each of these studies, immediate rewards were more helpful than delayed ones. 

As the study explains, people often pursue goals such as losing weight for the delayed reward of improved health. But researcher Ayelet Fishbach says activities that provide both immediate and delayed rewards are most effective. For example, if you want to lose weight, you can choose an immediate reward related to that goal such as attending a fun cardio class rather than just running on the treadmill. Or if your goal is to eat healthier, you can immediately treat yourself to your favorite nutritious snack.  

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“Overall, whereas delayed rewards may motivate goal setting and the intentions to pursue long-term goals, a meta-analysis of our studies finds that immediate rewards are more strongly associated with actual persistence in a long-term goal,” Fishbach says. After all, New Year’s resolutions can be daunting, but taking immediate action through a reward can help you enjoy the process.

In addition to rewarding yourself, you can also try writing down your resolution and asking a friend or coach to hold you accountable, suggests Integrative Nutrition founder Joshua Rosenthal. In fact, a Harvard Business School study found that those who wrote down their goals and planned the steps to reaching them were most successful.

Whatever your New Year’s resolution and however you choose to achieve it, remember to be kind to yourself through the journey—and to have fun along the way! 

What’s your New Year’s resolution or intention? Tell us here.

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