January 11, 2024
FOX5 Atlanta
Beth Galvin

We’re only halfway through January, and if you are already hanging on for dear life to your New Year’s resolution, Henry Mahncke, the CEO of Posit Science, which makes the brain training program BrainHQ, says don’t beat yourself up.

“I think one of the things about New Year’s resolutions is, is we tend to treat them like a moral issue, like, ‘Hey if I fail on my New Year’s resolution, I’m a bad person.’ Or ‘If I succeed, I’m a good person.'” Mahncke says. “And, as a brain scientist, I don’t think that’s a very helpful framing.”

Mahncke also does not like the idea of “going big or going home.”

He says you want a resolution as small as you can get it.

“So, you make that tiny, tiny, little right decision, right, just the smallest thing you can possibly do,” he says. “Your brain actually gives you that hit of dopamine and that starts to rewire the brain to build the habit.”

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions
Our brains are often on a kind of autopilot.

“We grab that cookie while we’re at work because we’re a little bit distracted, or we set a time to wake up and go to the gym, and we just hit the alarm without even thinking, and we don’t go,” he says.

So, Mahncke says if you are starting to go off the rails, slow down, and hit the pause button for just 5 or 10 seconds.

“Just that little bit of a breather can help us stick to that resolution,” he says. “But again, if you don’t stick to it, you know, don’t treat it like it’s the end of the world. Just come back and take a new swing at it tomorrow and start to build that streak again.”

Each small, tiny step forward, Mahncke says, is progress you can feel good about.

“We change, change the lens from,’ I’m failing all the time, and I’m a bad person,’ to, ‘I’m succeeding at these first steps, I’m building a streak, I’m building momentum, it’s going to grow over time.’ And that’s really what the brain needs to do to build that new habit.”

“Taking two steps forward, taking one step backward, that’s what drives change over the long term,” Mahncke says.