12/31/2009 11:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolution (Without Feeling Tortured)

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolution Without Feeling Tortured
By Jodi Lipper & Cerina Vincent

It's the same thing every year: our gym becomes packed with hundreds of new members during the first few weeks of January, but come Martin Luther King Day, it's back to the regular crowd of die-hards who work out year round. No matter how annoying these gym "tourists" might be, we all know how hard it is for them to keep a New Year's resolution without feeling depressed, deprived, and uninspired after just a few short weeks. We'll admit it; we've been there, too. How many times have you made yourself a promise that turned out to be empty, or set a goal that turned out to be wholly unrealistic? Well, we're here to tell you that it is possible to make a realistic resolution and stick to it without feeling like you're missing out on the very best parts of life. Follow our six resolution rules and at this time next year you won't be making the same failed resolution for the tenth year in a row... imagine that!

1. Focus on the Internal

So many of us make superficial resolutions each year, and one of the reasons they don't stick is that they're just not heavy enough. This year, forget about losing those last ten pounds and make a resolution to make this your healthiest year yet, or instead of resolving to get a manicure every week, promise yourself that you'll do one thing every day that helps move your career forward. If you focus on the bigger and more important reasons for your resolution, you'll be constantly reminded of the importance of keeping it.

2. Put it In Writing

It's amazing how simply writing something down can magically make it true. We use this tool in the Build-a-Boyfriend workshop in our book How to Love Like a Hot Chick to help you discover exactly what kind of relationship you want and make it that much easier to find, and the same technique works for New Year's resolutions. Take a quiet moment to sit down and write about what resolution you're making and why, to make sure that you and the universe both know its full meaning and importance. Post this paper somewhere you'll see it every day, like on your bathroom mirror or your fridge, and every time you're tempted to slip, the full weight of what you'd be giving up will be right in your face.

3. Find Healthy (and fun) Replacements

If your resolution involves giving something up, whether it's chocolate, cigarettes, or online shopping, the best way to avoid breaking your resolution (or accidentally exchanging it for something even more damaging) is to find a healthy replacement that you actually enjoy. If you're trying to cut out your three martini happy hour habit, sign up for a yoga class that takes place at the same time, or if you want to quit smoking, indulge in a hobby you truly enjoy that will occupy your hands, like knitting, scrapbooking, or playing the guitar. Whatever you choose, it's important to get excited about adding something when you're taking something else away.

4. Schedule It

Our lives are all so crazy busy that it's pretty safe to say that if you don't find a specific time to make your resolution happen, it probably won't happen. It's not enough to just say that you're going to take up jogging or always take off your makeup at night before passing out. It's not even enough to write it down. Instead, take a look at your life, find the free time that's hiding in tiny chunks here and there, and make a new schedule for yourself that includes which days you'll be getting up early to take a jog before work and what time you need to turn off Conan to take off that damn mascara.

5. Leave Room to Wiggle

Quitting anything cold turkey can feel next to impossible, and the whole "all or nothing" attitude can be dangerous - one half of a brownie and your diet resolution is ruined, so why not eat the whole tray? Now, if we're talking about illicit drugs, cheating on your spouse, or something truly harmful like that, you should absolutely stop it completely, but otherwise you should leave yourself some wiggle room to make this whole resolution thing easier. If you're going on a diet, savor a small piece of chocolate each night, or if you're cutting back on drinking, relish a glass of wine with dinner. Keeping things in moderation will keep you on the wagon for much, much longer.

6. Don't Wait for New Year's!

Possibly the best way to keep your resolutions as the year progresses is to change whatever it is in your life that needs changing as soon as you realize that it does. The New Year gives us a great opportunity to reflect on things we'd like to do better, but changing too many things at once can be daunting. So make your own rules and create your own "new year" by taking stock throughout the year and always striving to be, do, and act your absolute best!

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