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9 most common New Year’s resolutions — and how to make them happen
We look at the most common New Year's resolutions and get expert advice to help you check them off 2019's to-do list.
- The top three New Year's resolutions for 2018 were to eat healthier, get more exercise, and save more money. Care to guess what the top three are this year?
- We check in with experts to devise strategies for tackling the most common New Year's resolutions.
- Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish and how you will do it can help increase your chances of success in 2019.
With New Year's rounding the corner, everyone is sharing their 2019 resolutions, and it's giving us that auld déjà vu. According to a 2017 YouGov survey, the top three resolutions for 2018 were eating healthier, getting more exercise, and saving more money. According to a 2018 survey, the top resolutions for next year are — wait for it — to exercise more, lose weight, and save money.
Clearly, we've missed the mark. To kick off New Year's right, let's look at last year's most popular resolutions and see how we may be able to make them happen in 2019.
Eating better is a laudable goal, one many of us could strive to improve on. Don't fall for dietary fads, though. They help us neither live healthier nor lose weight.
"Everyone is blaming dieters for regaining weight they lose, and that's just wrong — it's not their fault they regain weight, and it's not about willpower, or any lack thereof," Dr. Traci Mann, of the University of Minnesota's Health and Eating Lab, told the Washington Post.
Mann notes diets trigger three physiological changes that make it difficult for us to maintain them. The first is neurological (dieters' brains become programmed to notice food more); the second is hormonal (diets increase the hormones that make people feel hungry); and the third is biological (when you try to lose weight, your body starts to store calories as fat).
"For practically any diet — crazy or not crazy sounding — in that first six to 12 months, people can lose about 10 percent of their starting weight," Mann continues. "But the short run isn't the whole story. Everyone acts like the short run is the whole story, and that anything that happens later is the dieter's fault and not really part of the diet."
If your resolution is to eat healthier, don't diet. Speak with your doctor to devise healthy meal plans that don't starve your body but, instead, focus on healthier foods — fruits, vegetables, less salt, more fish, and so on — that you can enjoy for the long run.
Get more exercise
Again, don't start exercising with the goal of losing weight. Many factors combine to create your metabolic rate, including basic body functions, digestive functions, and physical activity. Physical activity only accounts for 10 to 30 percent of the total rate, and exercise is an even smaller subset of that.
With that said, exercise is one of the best habits for maintaining a healthy mind and body and increasing quality of life. Here are two tips to make it stick:
First, don't push yourself to exhaustion every workout session. Trainer Firas Zahabi argues that consistency in training will benefit you far more.
"Let's say the maximum number of pull-ups you can do is ten," Zahabi explains. "Should I make you do ten pull-ups on our workout? No, I'm going to make you do five, because I'm setting you up to work the next day. The next day we're going to do five. And then we're going to do six."
If you can do ten pull-ups but need a three days to recover, then the maximum number you can do a week is eight. But if you can do five a day consistently, you can manage 35 pull-ups a week. Whatever the exercise, Zahabi's flow-state method allows you to increase volume without sore muscles.
Then, reward yourself immediately after the workout. As Charles Duhigg told Big Think, enjoying a reward, such as a piece of chocolate, immediately after the workout wires your brain to associate exercise with that pleasure. Soon the endorphins will kick in at the thought of the exercise, with or without the chocolate.
Save more money
Not an ideal way to start saving in 2019, but better than some people's plan.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
We all need an emergency fund or to save for retirement, but everyday expenses cut deeper into our paychecks with each year.
According to the USAA Educational Foundation, one way to help you save is to pay yourself a committed percentage first. Figure out how much of your monthly gross you can safety set aside — they recommend 10 to 20 percent — and treat it like taxes. It comes right off the top. No excuses.
Another good saving technique is pay down your credit card bill as quickly as possible. In 2018, the average interest rate on a new credit card hit a record of 16.71 percent. Meanwhile, the average savings account's annual percentage yield is a mere 0.09 percent. Kill the credit card debt, so it doesn't offset what you manage to save.
Focus on self-care
Plan on improving self-care for your New Year's resolution? Then make sure you to sleep like this in 2019. Image source: Pixabay
This one will mean different things to different people, so we'll stick to the activity that is the cornerstone of all self-care: sleep. According to the CDC, thirty-five percent of American adults get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night.
If you are one of those adults, here are a couple tricks to getting your sleep schedule back on track:
- Stick to the same sleep schedule every day.
- Keep your bedroom cool, free of light, and limit as much noise pollution as possible.
- Don't drink alcohol before bed. Try chamomile tea or warm milk instead.
- Avoid the bright, blue-tinted light of electronics before bed. It wrecks your circadian rhythm.
Remember, the average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, but everybody is different. Find your required sleep time and make sure to get it.
If sleep isn't your self-care resolution, make sure you know exactly what it is you want to change. Don't simply tell yourself, "I want to get fit and healthy." Vague, indefinite goals will ensure you don't have a means to navigate to that end. The more specific your resolution, the better your chances.
Reading more: the coziest resolution you can make this year. (Photo from Pexels)
The best trick for reading more is to always have a book at the ready. Neil Pasricha, at Harvard Business Review, recounts this illuminating story:
A good friend once told me a story that really stuck with me. He said Stephen King had advised people to read something like five hours a day. My friend said, "You know, that's baloney. Who can do that?" But then, years later, he found himself in Maine on vacation. He was waiting in line outside a movie theater with his girlfriend, and who should be waiting in front of him? Stephen King! His nose was in a book the whole time in line. When they got into the theater, Stephen King was still reading as the lights dimmed. When the lights came up, he pulled his book open right away. He even read as he was leaving.
The same goes for doctor's offices, break rooms, and airport terminals. These small moments add up to a lot of quality reading time.
Another tip is to do your reading with a physical book or dedicated e-reader. Not a tablet or smartphone. Tablets and smartphones may lure you away from reading with just one more YouTube video to watch, Facebook post to like, or Twitter kerfuffle to leap into.
Make new friends
All you must do to make friends is banish your social jitters, be confident in yourself, and not alienate people with boorish behavior. Simple, right? Obviously not or it wouldn't be on this list. Don't think this one is just here for the introverts, either. While many extroverts have mastered chitchat, many can feel they lack those deeper social connections.
Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shared with Big Think his advice for gaining confidence in conversation. He said:
In any moment you can ask yourself am I doing this because I want to or because I think people will like it? If we're basing it off of the reality that someone else will like it, we'll never really know. We open ourselves up for that social anxiety, the fear of negative judgment, the unknown of external validation. So, we can always ask ourselves what do I want to do right now? What is interesting to me? What will feel good to me? And act off of that to eliminate social anxiety to bring more confidence into our conversations. So that's how we find our authentic voice and use it.
Horn notes that looking for external validation only burdens you with social anxiety, making it more difficult to find friends or conduct business. Ironically, it is through internal validation that we find the confidence to connect with other people.
How do we manage internal validation? Horn recommends creating what he calls the "curiosity compass," a series of questions that you genuinely want to ask other people. Such questions help make connections because you will be interested in their answers and because others enjoy the feeling of being found interesting.
Learn a new skill/hobby
We want to learn new skills or hobbies as a means to enrich our lives. Instead, we find ourselves idling our free time away with another TV binge. Of course, we tell ourselves, once we catch up with the current season, we'll definitely learn to play the piano. Except Netflix just ordered two more seasons of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
A paper in the Journal of Positive Psychology looked at why people devote their time to "passive activities," such as Facebook or watching TV, compared to "flow activities" like learning a new skill or hobby. Participants reported they engage with passive activities because they are easier and more enjoyable. While participants believed flow activities would result in a deeper, more lasting happiness, they found the effort to engage a major hurdle.
The researchers suggest people use techniques to reduce the effort of getting into the flow. If you're looking to try your hand at creative writing, for example, you should have your computer set up ahead of time and know where you are going to start writing. Blacklisting sites like Netflix and Facebook may not hurt either.
Get a new job
Most people find employment through networking, leading them to the cliche, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." There's some truth to that, but risk-taking expert Barnaby Marsh believes there's a deeper truth at play. He argues that it really centers on people developing social networks were an opportunity one person can't capitalize on can instead be passed on to another.
And when you're astute to many, many opportunities, by definition you can't pursue and you can't take all of them. But what do you do with them? The best thing to do is to share those opportunities with other people that you know who could use those opportunities. And as you share them you're creating a bond and the preconditions for prosocial activity to happen in the future. Lucky people almost always share their luck with other people, and it comes back to benefit them in great ways.
Connecting with others, and sharing what luck and talents you have, is a great way to lay the seeds for networking a new job.
Don't make a New Year's resolution
One way to not be disappointed by your resolution is to not make one. The problem with this approach is that New Year's resolutions are decent tools for change.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, New Year's resolvers reported higher success rates than nonresolvers at modifying a life problem. Forty-six percent of resolvers were successful, while only 4 percent of nonresolvers managed the feat.
"Self-efficacy, skills to change, and readiness to change assessed before January 1 all predicted positive outcome for resolvers," wrote the researchers.
While you can certainly avoid failure by not making a resolution, the New Year's atmosphere of newness appears to open our mind's willingness to accept that change. Even if it's not the most original resolution, it can still bring a valuable change to your life.
(Didn't find your New Year's resolution on the list? No worries. Check out our article on brain hacking your New Year's resolution for more general advice on how to make change stick.)
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?
- A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
- It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
- The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Welfare as an investment<p>The <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/hendren/files/welfare_vnber.pdf" target="_blank">study</a>, carried out by Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser of Harvard University, reviews 133 welfare programs through a single lens. The authors measured these programs' "Marginal Value of Public Funds" (MVPF), which is defined as the ratio of the recipients' willingness to pay for a program over its cost.</p><p>A program with an MVPF of one provides precisely as much in net benefits as it costs to deliver those benefits. For an illustration, imagine a program that hands someone a dollar. If getting that dollar doesn't alter their behavior, then the MVPF of that program is one. If it discourages them from working, then the program's cost goes up, as the program causes government tax revenues to fall in addition to costing money upfront. The MVPF goes below one in this case. <br> <br> Lastly, it is possible that getting the dollar causes the recipient to further their education and get a job that pays more taxes in the future, lowering the cost of the program in the long run and raising the MVPF. The value ratio can even hit infinity when a program fully "pays for itself."</p><p> While these are only a few examples, many others exist, and they do work to show you that a high MVPF means that a program "pays for itself," a value of one indicates a program "breaks even," and a value below one shows a program costs more money than the direct cost of the benefits would suggest.</p> After determining the programs' costs using existing literature and the willingness to pay through statistical analysis, 133 programs focusing on social insurance, education and job training, tax and cash transfers, and in-kind transfers were analyzed. The results show that some programs turn a "profit" for the government, mainly when they are focused on children:
This figure shows the MVPF for a variety of polices alongside the typical age of the beneficiaries. Clearly, programs targeted at children have a higher payoff.
Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser<p>Programs like child health services and K-12 education spending have infinite MVPF values. The authors argue this is because the programs allow children to live healthier, more productive lives and earn more money, which enables them to pay more taxes later. Programs like the preschool initiatives examined don't manage to do this as well and have a lower "profit" rate despite having decent MVPF ratios.</p><p>On the other hand, things like tuition deductions for older adults don't make back the money they cost. This is likely for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is less time for the benefactor to pay the government back in taxes. Disability insurance was likewise "unprofitable," as those collecting it have a reduced need to work and pay less back in taxes. </p>
What are the implications of all this?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="ceXv4XLv" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b407f5aa043eeb84f2b7ff82f97dc35"> <div id="botr_ceXv4XLv_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ceXv4XLv-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/ceXv4XLv-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ceXv4XLv-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Firstly, it shows that direct investments in children in a variety of areas generate very high MVPFs. Likewise, the above chart shows that a large number of the programs considered pay for themselves, particularly ones that "invest in human capital" by promoting education, health, or similar things. While programs that focus on adults tend to have lower MVPF values, this isn't a hard and fast rule.</p><p>It also shows us that very many programs don't "pay for themselves" or even go below an MVPF of one. However, this study and its authors do not suggest that we abolish programs like disability payments just because they don't turn a profit.</p><p>Different motivations exist behind various programs, and just because something doesn't pay for itself isn't a definitive reason to abolish it. The returns on investment for a welfare program are diverse and often challenging to reckon in terms of money gained or lost. The point of this study was merely to provide a comprehensive review of a wide range of programs from a single perspective, one of dollars and cents. </p><p>The authors suggest that this study can be used as a starting point for further analysis of other programs not necessarily related to welfare. </p><p>It can be difficult to measure the success or failure of a government program with how many metrics you have to choose from and how many different stakeholders there are fighting for their metric to be used. This study provides us a comprehensive look through one possible lens at how some of our largest welfare programs are doing. </p><p>As America debates whether we should expand or contract our welfare state, the findings of this study offer an essential insight into how much we spend and how much we gain from these programs. </p>
Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.
- When most of your life is spent doing one thing, it matters if that thing is unfulfilling or if it makes you unhappy. According to research, most people are not thrilled with their jobs. However, there are ways to find purpose in your work and to reduce the negative impact that the daily grind has on your mental health.
- "The evidence is that about 70 percent of people are not engaged in what they do all day long, and about 18 percent of people are repulsed," London Business School professor Dan Cable says, calling the current state of work unhappiness an epidemic. In this video, he and other big thinkers consider what it means to find meaning in your work, discuss the parts of the brain that fuel creativity, and share strategies for reassessing your relationship to your job.
- Author James Citrin offers a career triangle model that sees work as a balance of three forces: job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle. While it is possible to have all three, Citrin says that they are not always possible at the same time, especially not early on in your career.