Want to exercise more in 2017? There's a trick you can follow. Want to exercise more in 2017? There's a trick you can follow. Want to exercise more in 2017? There's a trick you can follow. (Photo: Joyseulay / Shutterstock)

Expert reveals secret to keeping New Year's resolutions

Following this technique is scientifically proven to make you stick with them longer.

It's that time again: as 2016 comes to a close, we start to take stock. What changes do we want to make for ourselves in the year ahead?

Many New Year's resolutions will inevitably get made and broken. We'll promise to exercise more or eat more vegetables. But are there any tricks to make them stick? Dr. Ayelet Fishbach, a social scientist at the University of Chicago, thinks she has the answer.

While a tantalizing end-goal in the distant future might be motivating at first – such as "I'd love to lose 20 pounds this year" – over time it may become more difficult to conceptualize. Fishbach's research suggests that the solution is to introduce immediate rewards into the process.

In a newly published study, Fishbach discovered that if you reward yourself immediately, you'll have a better chance at sticking with your long-term goals. In other words, if your goal is to lose weight but you dread working out, Fishbach said you should think about having a running partner or trying a Zumba class at a gym. Or listen to music that makes you feel good. Choosing a fun workout provides an immediate reward. It brings you instant enjoyment, and ultimately increases your chances of repeating the process and staying committed to your exercise and weight loss goals.

“People are more successful at pursing their resolutions, persist longer studying and exercising, continue engaging in healthy habits over time, and eat more of a healthy food to the extent that immediate rewards are available when pursing [goal-related] activities,” said Fishbach, a psychologist who has studied ethical temptations during her years at Tel Aviv University in Israel, her home country.

Fellow Israeli psychologist Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, has also studied New Year's resolutions. "People create unreasonable resolutions that they have no business making," he told From The Grapevine. Instead, he suggested thinking smaller and changing your surroundings. Maybe don't walk past the donut shop on your way into work. "Life is tempting," Ariely explained. "Life is getting better at tempting us all the time. What’s important is making our environment support our efforts."

So when you're lacing up your workout shoes and getting ready to exercise, you're faced with a decision: Grab a donut or grab a partner. That choice could determine if your New Year's resolution sticks.

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