It's that time of year again when many people resolve to learn a new skill, give up something that's bad for them, or simply put more effort in at school. But do New Year's resolutions work? Research by British psychologist Richard Wiseman in 2007 has shown that 88 percent of all resolutions end in failure! Many continue to make the same resolutions year in and year out. So why are New Year's resolutions so hard to keep?
又來到一年的那時候了，許多人下定決心要學新的一技之長、放棄某樣對他們有害的事物，或僅是花更多心力在學業的時候。不過新年願望有用嗎？英國心理學家 Richard Wiseman 於 2007 年的研究顯示，百分之八十八的新年願望以失敗告終!許多人繼續年復一年地許下相同心願。那為什麼新年願望那麼難信守呢？
Our prefrontal cortex, a small area in the brain, is responsible for our willpower. The prefrontal cortex is pretty busy—it not only has to keep our New Year's resolutions on track, it also has to take charge of short-term memory, solving abstract problems, and keeping us focused. It's not a lack of discipline; it's your overworked brain being too busy.
In one experiment, several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group of students was given a two-digit number to remember while the other group had to memorize a seven-digit figure. They were then instructed to walk down a hall where they were each offered a snack of either a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad. The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to researchers, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain; they were a cognitive load, making it that much harder to resist a dessert.
So now we know what doesn't work when it comes to keeping those resolutions, let's take a look at what might help. Researchers suggest we think of willpower as a muscle that needs to be strengthened. They suggest that it might be possible to strengthen willpower by exercising it. In one experiment, they asked a group of students to improve their posture for two weeks, thereby practicing mental discipline in one area. The students showed a marked improvement on subsequent measures of self-control—at least when compared to a group that didn't work on posture control.
If you concentrate on one thing at a time, this will strengthen your willpower in other areas. The key is to not overload your prefrontal cortex. Now that you've picked one resolution, make sure to break it down as far as you can to the simplest task possible. If your goal is to lose 15 kilograms this year, break it up into segments of half a kilogram per week, or two kilograms per month.
如果你一次專注在一件事上，這會強化你其它區域的意志力。關鍵是不要讓你的前額葉皮質超載。現在你已經挑了一個新年願望，確保你盡可能地將它分解成越簡單的任務越好。如果你的目標是今年減掉 15 公斤，將它拆成每週半公斤，或每個月兩公斤的一個個小部分。
Above all, don't use your resolutions as a stick to beat yourself with. Ditch the negative connotations, and instead focus on what those small changes will bring to your life in a positive way in the coming year. So what's your New Year's resolution? Leave a comment below and subscribe for more videos.
- 「放棄、戒除」- Give Up
It's that time of year again when many people resolve to learn a new skill, give up something that's bad for them, or simply put more effort in at school.
- 「年復一年」- Year In And Year Out
Many continue to make the same resolutions year in and year out.
- 「管理、負責」- Take Charge Of
...it also has to take charge of short-term memory, solving abstract problems, and keeping us focused.
- 「佔據、佔去」- Take Up
The reason, according to researchers, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain...
- 「依次、逐一、每次」- At A Time
If you concentrate on one thing at a time, this will strengthen your willpower in other areas.