Popular Science

How to trick your brain into keeping a New Year’s resolution

Apply the power of habit to your annual goals.

a man lifting weights

Use your weakness to your advantage.

Samuel King Jr. via Pexels

Breaking New Year’s resolutions is so time-honored a tradition that companies can actually stake their business model on it. Gyms like Planet Fitness depend on thousands joining up at the beginning of the year, only to fail on the follow-through. They sign up about 6,500 people per location despite the fact that each one can only accommodate about 300, relying on the low cost of membership to convince people that at $10 a month, you shouldn’t cancel—you’ll definitely start going next week.

But you probably won’t. Getting fit and losing weight are the two most common New Year’s resolutions, and both depend on making daily changes to your life. That means interrupting your normal habits and exchanging them for new ones. Unfortunately, humans are terrible at doing both of those things.

Ironically, though, it’s hard to change precisely because our brains are so good at becoming habituated. We’re hardwired to automate processes. It’s how you can find yourself at work without having to think about getting there, or why you reach for the patch of wall where the lightswitch is in your own bathroom when you stumble into a hotel’s commode. It’s also why most new diets and exercise plans fail. Once a habit is automatic, .

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