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New Year’s resolutions should focus on meaningful changes

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Stephanie McWilliams WVU Photo/Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

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New Year’s resolutions born of fear, guilt and shame are doomed to fail, but choosing behavior changes that improve relationships and create connections we have with people are more likely to generate more meaningful transformations in their lives, according to Stephanie McWilliams, a clinical instructor and assistant director in the department of psychology at West Virginia University


AUDIO FILE: Plan for failure-reinforcements
“Failure is going to happen. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when and how.’ So if people plan that failure is going to happen, and they have a structure around their environment and around themselves, to say ‘what do I do when I drop the ball?’ They’re more likely to stay on task. Understanding that small reinforcements matter—it can’t be the big bang it’s got to be little steps throughout the way, and if they can appreciate each reinforcement as it comes, then they are more likely to stay on track.”

AUDIO FILE: Choosing resolution topics that focus on happiness instead of pitfall topics

“Often times resolutions can be somewhat selfish, thinking ‘hey I want to lose some weight, I want to look better in this dress’, but when we think about improving the relationships in our lives, improving the connections we have with people, we end up being happier people overall and we end up being more successful in making the changes we want to make.”

AUDIO FILE Keys to New Year's resolution success
“Research shows us that usually we fail; but if we make smart goals, right? So Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Time-manageable, usually people are a lot more successful. And the other thing is understanding what resources you need to have in your back pocket in order to be successful. Often times these are things that people don’t think that much about: Do you have the appropriate social support? Have you educated yourself as to what is and what is not required for the behavior change you’re trying to make? Have you set up your environment to help make you successful?”

AUDIO FILE: Why people gravitate toward these types of resolutions
“The other thing is usually negative emotion is what leads us to make certain resolution agreements with ourselves. So we make agreements with ourselves out of fear, out of guilt, out of shame, and again, research tells us that this usually leads to pretty shaky ground for making positive behavior change.”



CONTACT: Laura Fletcher, Director of Marketing and Communications

Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


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