Are you working on a New Year's resolution to be healthier? ‘Tis the season for diets, gym memberships, and locating the running shoes that somehow got buried under a pile of other items in the deepest recesses of your closet (we won’t judge).
We all know the odds. Approximately 8% of New Year’s resolutions are actually kept, according to research from the University of Scranton. Yet somehow, year after year, we hope that our resolution will defy the odds and be one of those 8%.
Obviously, preparation is essential. You will find it hard to stick to your new diet if you haven’t prepared by filling your pantry with the right type of food. But even those who prepare often find themselves on the verge of giving up.
So what’s the secret to success? How do those who achieve their goals keep going, even when they feel like giving up?
The answer is surprisingly simple: human connection.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Most diet and exercise resolutions fail because people try to do them alone. Some programs, such as Weight Watchers, recognize this and tap into the power of human connection, encouragement, support and accountability to increase participants’ likelihood of achieving their goals. A study of a 10-month intensive weight-loss program showed the program was maintained only 24% of the time when undertaken alone, but the success rate jumped to 50% when the program was undertaken with a group of three strangers and 66% when undertaken with three friends or colleagues.
Why is connection so effective at helping us to achieve goals? Studies show that when people feel lonely, they give up on tasks more quickly. Connection reduces loneliness and increases perseverance, which is essential for completing mentally tough challenges like losing weight.
Connection also is a contributing factor to health in general. Research shows that feelings of connection affect neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine), hormones (chemical messengers that travel throughout the body including adrenaline, cortisol, oxytocin, and vasopressin), and enzymes that affect chromosomes (such as telomerase). These biochemicals help us thrive and live longer. People who are connected handle stress better too, making it less likely that you’ll turn to that container of ice cream as a stress-reducer at the end of a long day.
Many organizations have recognized the importance of connection in achieving health related goals. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, fosters an environment of connection and community that provides recovering alcoholics with the positive social support they need to beat their addiction. Another company that we are aware of gave the traditional holiday weight challenge a creative twist by encouraging employees to form teams and commit as a group to maintain their total group weight over the holiday season.
So if you want to achieve your health resolutions this year, or any resolution for that matter, seek a group or accountability partner who can provide you with the encouragement and support you need to persevere. Cheer each other on toward success, and enjoy the dual benefits of achieving your goals and living a more connected, satisfying life.
Katie Russell, a digital marketing specialist at E Pluribus Partners, co-authored this article.