Keep Your New Years Resolutions by Strengthening Your Willpower With These 5 Tips

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
January 21, 2019
Tips for Achieving Your Resolutions

Almost half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, yet only a small percent actually achieves them. In fact, about 80 percent of resolutions fall by the wayside by February. 

Why do so many people give up? Some experts chalk it up to a lack of motivation. Remedies include setting up a weekly mini-goals and giving yourself rewards  each time you reach a goal. You can also strengthen your willpower.

Try these tips for strengthening willpower.

Get more sleep. Fatigue interferes with keeping commitments, according to experts at University of Michigan Health System. Regularly getting between seven and eight hours of sleep can help you stay alert, motivated, heal from emotional wounds and make good decisions. If you need some help getting shut eye, try these seven drug-free sleep solutions.

Drink your morning joe. Every year exercising and getting into shape rank among the most popular resolutions. And it seems coffee can help you achieve your fitness goals, according to a study published in the journal Sports Medicine. Coffee is a good source of caffeine, which lowers the perception of effort during a workout, a common barrier to sticking with a fitness plan. Although drinking coffee may seem controversial, there’s enough evidence that suggests coffee has health benefits. Here’s why you don’t have to feel guilty about having a second cup. 

Manage stress. If you’ve resolved to lose weight or quit smoking, stress certainly can interfere with your goals. Smoking and overeating are common -- albeit unhealthy -- coping mechanisms for stress.  

If smoking relaxes you, you’ll need to find an alternative stress buster. Going for walks, breathing deeply and visualization exercises can help. And talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy, as it can help ease the stress of nicotine withdrawals. 

And if you’re dieting, keep in mind that when you’re stressed, your body responds by releasing cortisol, a hormone responsible for providing energy to the body to handle the stressful situation. It does its job by releasing sugar and fat into the blood to be used as energy and stimulating your appetite to replace calories burned while being stressed. This works well if your stressful event burned a lot of calories. But if you’re stressed over a traffic jam, computer crashing or argument with your spouse, a stressful situation can add unnecessary calories.  

Need some help managing your stress? Try these stress management techniques »

Take up puzzles. Accomplishing any change in your life requires willpower. Research conducted by social psychologist and willpower expert Dr. Roy Baumeister suggests that willpower can be strengthened like a muscle. And working on challenging puzzles is an effective way to strengthen it. The more time you spend on solving difficult puzzles, the stronger your willpower will become.  

Add willpower enhancing foods to your diet. Several books co-authored by Dr. Baumeister promote foods low in sugar can help improve your self-discipline and willpower because they help control blood sugar levels. Sugary foods cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling tired, hungry and unfocused. And adding protein to a low-sugar food makes it easier for your body to maintain steady sugar levels. Examples of willpower foods include:

  • Almonds: Need an afternoon snack? Try almonds. They’re a good source of protein and healthy fats while being low in sugar. 
  • Split peas and lentils: are valuable whether as a side dish or in soup. They’re high in protein but low in sugar.
  • Lean protein: Foods like fish, chicken, eggs and tofu are high in protein but low in sugar and can help keep your willpower going strong. Try adding some source of protein to all of your meals.
  • Avocados: are commonly used as a snack or ingredient. Either way, they’re low in sugar. Although they’re not particularly high in protein, they’re a great source of healthy fats, which contribute to willpower by helping your body absorb nutrients more efficiently. 

Making changes to your life is never easy, but just remember -- you’re not alone. Your primary care doctor can help guide you through losing weight, beginning an exercise program and quitting smoking.  They should be able to create a plan to help you manage and reduce your stress. Don’t have a primary care physician? Consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. They have time to really work with you and develop a wellness plan that addresses issues like stress, weight management and chronic illnesses. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »  

Similar Posts
New Year's Resolutions for Stress & Weight Management / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / January 5, 2015
MDVIP Benefits Can Help You Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / January 15, 2017

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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