Good intentions? This is how you keep it full, according to new research

How are your good intentions? You may have been able to move more or eat less during the first weeks of the new year, but an eventual change in behavior is much more difficult. How do you make sure you don’t give up?

When the lavish Christmas meals, donuts, and champagne are over, it’s the perfect time for many people to try a new, healthier path. The New Year is often filled with well-meaning plans to give body and mind a boost.

Move over
More exercise is number one when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, but research has shown that most people drop their exercise schedule within a month. So the question is: how do we make sure we stick around and why do we so often fall back into our old habits?

New study from Australian Edith Queen University He explains that the chances of success of new training procedures depend largely on the reasons why people want to move and exercise. A significant difference was found between intrinsic and extrinsic core motivations.

to persevere
In the first period of 2022, about three hundred Australians were questioned extensively for two months about their good intentions, motives, sanity and other matters. Lead researcher Professor Joan Dixon says she and her team were surprised by the results. “We expected that people who are usually resilient and persistent in achieving their goals will also be more likely to stick to their new exercise routines,” says Professor Dixon. However, none of these factors predicted whether people continued to train, although it clearly benefited them mentally. Our research revealed for the first time a number of underlying drivers that had a clear positive or negative effect on sticking to New Year’s resolutions. “.

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Do it for yourself
It’s the intrinsic motivation, which comes from within you, rather than the extrinsic motivation from the outside, that improves mental health and keeps people going with their New Year’s resolutions, according to Dixon. “We’ve found that exercise with an independent and intrinsic motive, such as pleasure, happiness, a specific goal or deeper meaning, has a positive effect on a person’s mental well-being and also motivates them to continue exercising,” she explains.

The theory that the pursuit of intrinsically motivated goals satisfies basic psychological needs, such as feelings of competence, importance, worth, and pleasure, is widely accepted in science. However, we found that it is closely related to making successful decisions and following training schedules, Dixon says.

doomed to fail
In contrast, the team found that extrinsic motivation does not help with following through on New Year’s resolutions. In fact, the participants usually couldn’t keep up with the new routine and it was detrimental to their mental health. “Good decisions are driven by external factors, such as a desire to conform to the demands or approval of others, financial or other material rewards, or the pursuit of a healthy model because of feelings of guilt or shame if you fail to do so,” said Professor Dixon.

Other priorities
Although the study showed that resilience and perseverance were linked to mental health, the ability to adapt the goal of exercise did not appear to play a role in maintaining physical activity. According to Professor Dixon, it is not clear why flexibility and perseverance do not play a positive role in adhering to a new training regimen. One possible explanation may be that individuals who take a flexible approach can easily prioritize other activities that they consider more important, urgent, or relevant than their training goals. On the other hand, relentless pursuit of goals can make it difficult to fundamentally modify or change a decision. effective, even when a person is making little or no progress,” the scientist said.

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The new year
The time of year may also play a major role in this process. “People can be overly optimistic and unrealistic when making New Year’s resolutions, especially during the holiday season when most people are on vacation and there is a lot of free time.” However, Dixon remains positive about coming out and making new plans for the new year. “Overall, flexible goal pursuit is more likely to lead to greater happiness and well-being, even if resolutions are not maintained or goals are not met. This is why it is important to encourage people to focus on modifiable goals rather than outcomes from in order to improve mental well-being,” concludes Professor Dixon.

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