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SALT LAKE CITY — While more than 60 percent of Americans regularly make New Year's resolutions, only 8 percent are actually successful in achieving their goals. That's according to a study by the University of Scranton, which also found this glimmer of hope: People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't set specific ones.
So, how do you stay out of that 8 percent and stick to your guns this year? By making New Year's resolutions you'll want to keep.
While goals to exercise more, get better organized and spend less money top most people's lists, resolutions that require less physical effort often yield greater emotional results. Try these 5 resolutions that will help you be the best version of yourself — and let you enjoy making the goals you've vowed to keep.
1. Read. This just in: Reading is good for you. Need some proof? In September of 2012, a team of researchers at Stanford found that "literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people's brains" — exercise you can get without breaking a sweat.While studying the brain activity of subjects asked to read a Jane Austen novel while inside an MRI machine, "surprising preliminary results reveal a dramatic and unexpected increase in blood flow to regions of the brain beyond those responsible for 'executive function,'" according to a release on the study. In other words, both leisurely reading and reading for close study benefit us in some pretty significant neurological ways.
You don't have to make a goal to finish the complete works of Tolstoy by the end of 2013 to cash in on these benefits. Even what you're doing right now — reading this article online — fulfills this goal. Resolve to read something every day that catches your interest, whether it's a chapter in a book, an article online or in the newspaper, or something from a magazine.
Bonus goal: If you have kids, incorporate some bedtime reading into your routine to get your whole family reaping the benefits.
2. Write. Did you know that writing is good for you, too? Psychologist James Pennebaker believes that writing enables people to process their thoughts and emotions, leading to tangible physical and emotional health benefits. Pennebaker has been studying this phenomenon for more than 25 years and says that “when people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health.”
This writing never has to see the light of day to be beneficial. Just the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and letting your thoughts run freely will do the trick. Pennebaker recommends this assignment: Write down your deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in your life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. In more than 20 years of research, he's found that many of those who followed these instructions "have found their immune systems strengthened. Others have seen their grades improved. Sometimes entire lives have changed."
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit smoking
- Help others in their dreams
- Fall in love
- Spend more time with family
Source: University of Scranton
Bonus goals: Write your personal history or write letters to loved ones throughout the year. 3. Laugh. You know by now that laughter is the best medicine. According to Psychology Today, laughter reduces pain and allows us to tolerate discomfort; reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and nondiabetics alike; improves your job performance, especially if your work depends on creativity and solving complex problems; and establishes or restores a sense of connection between two people.
"Now comes hard new evidence that laughter helps your blood vessels function better. It acts on the inner lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, causing vessels to relax and expand, increasing blood flow," writes Hara Estroff Marano for Psychology Today. "In other words, it's good for your heart and brain, two organs that require the steady flow of oxygen carried in the blood."
There's never been a better excuse to read the comics, watch a funny YouTube video, see a comedian perform or watch a favorite comedy movie. Give yourself at least one good laugh a day, and consider it doctor's orders.
Bonus goals: Learn to make other people laugh and find the humor in even tense situations.
4. Travel. Here's more good news: According to the New York Times, there's increasing evidence that vacations are good for your health. A June 2008 article cites several studies showing that people who do not regularly take vacations are more likely to suffer coronary heart disease. What's more, "those who failed to take annual vacations had a 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack."
A wealth of other research shows that taking vacations promotes creativity, prevents burnout, promotes overall wellbeing, strengthens personal bonds, can help job performance and relieves stress in lasting ways.
While it can be hard to justify spending money on a vacation when funds are still tight for most Americans, let the health benefits persuade you to save up and take a trip.
Bonus goal: Travel the state and visit all national and state parks this year.5. Love. Human love is so complex and universal it is at the heart (no pun intended) of millions of poems, songs and works of art. The goal to love and be loved is something all humans seek, but in ways so individual and unique it sometimes takes a lifetime to achieve.
As romantic as love may be, science has been able to quantify the benefits of finding a lasting love match. According to Health magazine, "Married people live longer, have better access to health care, enjoy a more satisfying sex life, experience less stress, live a healthier lifestyle, and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and depression compared to their single counterparts. The list of health perks conferred by marriage is so long, in fact, that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made it a centerpiece of its two-year-old, $5 million national media campaign to promote wedded bliss."
The goal to fall in love routinely finds it way onto New Year's resolution lists, but being in a long-term relationship isn't the only way to let love benefit your life this year; just begin by opening yourself to the possibility of love. And don't limit yourself to romantic love, either. Cultivate greater love for family members, friends or even the human race as a whole. Being able to see the good qualities in others and allow them to appreciate yours brings a great sense of wellbeing and happiness and opens the door for romantic love to enter.
Bonus goal: Learn to love yourself, flaws and all, and appreciate all you have to offer.