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According to most sources improving health tops most New Years resolutions lists. Specifically weight loss, exercise, eating better, drinking less alcohol, or quitting smoking. The truth is that only 75% of people maintain resolutions past the first week. By six months, less than half (46%) of people will maintain their resolutions. But don't stop making a plan. Research also show that while a lot of people who make new years resolutions do break them, the process of making resolutions is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly set goals.

Here is another fact. Adults reporting the highest stress levels (8, 9, or 10 on a 10-point scale) were less likely to be successful at making positive health-related lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, exercising more, losing weight, reducing stress, and getting more sleep.(APA 2010)

That's right, stress keeps you from keeping your resolution to reduce stress! Now if that's not enough to make you want to shred your list, there's one more significant obstacle that research shows blocks you from keeping those resolutions— willpower.

Why not consider a different approach for your resolutions. It was Albert Einstein who is quoted as saying, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Before you generate a list & merely 'resolve' to make important health related lifestyle changes— position yourself for success by fortifying your willpower and developing a sustainable plan for dealing with the inevitable stress in your life.

Here are 2 ideas about stress & willpower that will help make your New Years Resolutions stick!

  1. Willpower is the ability to overcome procrastination. It's the ability to use your mind to do or not do—-deliberately. But here is the good news. This is not an inherent trait. Willpower is a learned skill. Getting a handle on willpower gives you inner strength and personal power to be your best self. Don't wait until you have to decide on going to the gym versus sleeping in. Here are examples of simple steps you can take throughout your day to help you develop your willpower. If in doubt, just don't post that comment on Face book. Don't like dishes on the counter? Load the dishwasher every time you have a soiled utensil. Call your Mom—now. Complete the report —now. De-clutter your workspace at home —now. Reward yourself. Go slowly and gradually, and you will gain the strength needed to apply to achieving your resolutions.
  2. Optimal Stress. Re-examine your definition of stress. Discover your personal Best Stress Zone (BSZ). No person, situation or event is inherently 'stressful'. Day to day stress is often related to your frame of reference. Stress is a process—not an event. You experience 'stress' only when a trigger kick starts the process. Your BestStress Zone can be your dynamic place for optimal spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well being. In the BSZ you achieve the highest levels of energy, satisfaction, happiness and productivity at work or at home. Daily living in the zone you experience Optimal Stress. In the BestStress Zone, you accept and understand that stress is inevitable. But you are able to transform potentially harmful reactions into healthy responses. Its a choice! You can learn to recognize the triggers that undermine your performance, vitality, and health. You have courage to take daily decisive actions guided by what's really important to you. You accept things that can't be changed, while having attitudes and skills that strengthen your resilience and personal effectiveness. In the BSZ you know how to give and receive from others. Demands and challenges are opportunities to learn, renew, and to bolster a portfolio of resources, In the BSZ you know the optimal dose of stress needed for maximum happiness, inspiration, motivation and successful aging. In the BSZ you Embrace Your Stress and Live your Best Life!

Carol J. Scott, MD is the StressRelief Coach and author of Optimal Stress: Living in your Best Stress Zone (John Wiley & Sons. 2010). Listen to her show StressRelief Radio Sundays @ 1pm East and 10 am West on Cable Radio Network. Visit her site at Or follow her on Facebook/stressreliefcoach or Twitter/stressreliefdoc.