It's one of the strange and frustrating parts of being human that it takes three weeks to form a positive new habit (or get rid of a negative old one), but yet that's also the timeframe when most people will give up on their resolutions or goals and go back to their old ways. 


So first of all, if you have kept even one of your New Year's resolutions — even if it's hanging on by a thread — congratulations! Seriously, getting this far was the hardest bit. So how the heck are you ever going to keep at it? I'm here to help, with the boosters below. 


Real reflection: This is a great time to look back at the past few weeks and notice what has worked for you — and what hasn't. Just because an expert told you that a certain tactic might work for you doesn't make it true. Has avoiding venues wherein verboten foods are sold kept you from pigging out? Keep doing it. Did hanging outside with your old smoking buddies make you crave a smoke for the next six hours straight? Ditch the puffers — at least while they're actively killing themselves while smoking.


Set up rules for yourself: If you've gotten this far without rules, you might find them useful going forward. One of my life "rules" is that I don't eat doughnuts. I love the deep fried dough, and if I let myself be the kind of person who eats them, I would eat them all the time. So I just act like, and even tell people "I don't eat doughnuts." Does that mean I never eat a doughnut? No. But I only indulge in one a couple times a year, which is totally fine. I basically have played a game with myself, and I'm winning! You can do this with other things too; "I only take a one day break in-between workout days" will lead you to hit the gym or the trails at least five days a week, and "I don't drink more than two drinks at a bar, ever," will keep you from overdoing the cocktails. Just pretend that you mean what you say, and eventually, it will become true (I swear this has worked wonders with my doughnut love!).  


Keep track with electronics: I find it extremely hard to be consistent with new habits unless I have some kind of record-keeping going on. It literally takes me months to pick up a new habit so thoroughly that I don't need to keep track anymore (I think it took me over a year of making sure I worked out five days a week before it has become 'just what I do,' for instance). This year I'm using the Lose It! app (free) for my iPhone to keep track of my calories so I can shed some pounds before spring hits and I want to break out my short skirts again. Sleep Cycle will not only monitor your shut-eye and wake you at the best possible time in your cycle, it will also give you a good idea of how much sleep you're really getting — or not getting. Whatever your goals, I bet there's an app to keep tabs on it. 


Rewards: Don't forget to give yourself a treat or a gift for keeping on it. You wouldn't expect an employee or a child to do what amounts to an extra project or more chores and never congratulate them for a job well done, right? So you should treat yourself well too — for that five pounds lost, buy a pretty new blouse, or for forgoing cigarettes for a month, take yourself out for a massage. As long as the reward isn't about the behavior you're trying to change (or equally negative), it's a go. Love yourself and the new changes you've made, and they will stick with you. 


For more great info on this topic, check out Jenn Savedge's article with expert advice for keeping your resolutions. 


MNN homepage photo: Shutterstock

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

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