Considering a New Year's Resolution for 2019? Baylor Experts Can Help

Dec 17, 2018

8 min

Sara Perry, Ph.D.Emily Hunter, Ph.D.Meredith David, Ph.D.Michael Scullin, Ph.D.Elise  King, MID, M.A.

WACO, Texas (Dec. 17, 2018) – As 2019 approaches, many Americans are considering ways to improve themselves via New Year’s resolutions.

Whether it’s personal, like losing weight or clearing clutter, or it’s professional, such as being a better manager or breaking away from smartphones, the options are wide-ranging. Here is a listing of Baylor University research that might help advise those seeking positive change in the coming year.

First and Foremost, Resolve not to Over-resolve

Only 10 to 20 percent of people keep their resolutions, says Sara Dolan, Ph.D., associate professor and graduate program director of clinical psychology. She advises setting “bite-sized goals instead of a massive behavior change.”

Rather than giving up sugar completely or going all out at the gym, she advises achieving small successes before moving on.

Ask Yourself: “Do I really want to work from home?”

Many U.S. employees believe working from home – or at least away from the office – can bring freedom and stress-free job satisfaction. A 2018 Baylor University study says, “Not so fast.”

The research, led by Sara Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, found that:

  • Autonomy is critical to protecting remote employees’ well-being and helping them avoid strain.
  • Employees reporting high levels of autonomy and emotional stability appear to be the most able to thrive in remote-work positions.
  • Employees reporting high levels of job autonomy with lower levels of emotional stability appear to be more susceptible to strain.

“Any organization, regardless of the extent to which people work remotely, needs to consider well-being of their employees as they implement more flexible working practices,” the researchers wrote.

Read more here.

Save Money by being a Better Negotiator

In today’s retail climate, where stores struggle to keep up with online competition and customers can compare prices with the ease of their smartphones, the price tag is just a starting point for negotiations, said negotiation expert Emily Hunter, Ph.D., associate professor of management in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

“No longer do you need to pay sticker price for everything you buy. The customer is now empowered to have a say in pricing, and even hourly retail workers are often empowered to give price discounts when requested,” Hunter said.

Hunter said negotiations – whether in a retail setting or in the workplace – require confidence.

“Many people are hesitant to negotiate because they don’t know how or they are worried about the other person’s reaction (Will they think I’m greedy?),” she said. “But practice can increase your confidence in your ability to negotiate. Rejection is less common than you fear, and retail stores especially are often willing to work with you.”

She offered the following tips to increase the chances of greater deals at the check-out counter.

Resolving to Be More Generous in the New Year

Many Americans already have enough “stuff,” and the gift-giving season sometimes adds to that collection of things we really don’t need. Instead of always receiving, how can we resolve to be more generous in the New Year?

“Whatever our station, however much money or resources we have, we all have something to share and something to give,” says Andy Hogue, Ph.D., senior lecturer in Baylor’s Honors College who teaches a course on philanthropy and the public good. “I like the idea of thinking in terms of a New Year’s resolution, sort of resolving to be more generous and helping people to think in those ways.”

Hogue offers individuals and families four ways to develop a spirit of generosity in the New Year.

Home Cooking Saves Money, Encourages Better Diet

The more home-prepared foods used, the less risk there is of eating too many calories and fat calories, says Baylor University nutrition expert Janelle Walter, Ph.D., professor of family and consumer sciences and Nutrition Sciences Program coordinator.

Home cooking also saves money and allows for more fruits, vegetables and dairy products — which often are missing when pre-prepared products are used — as well as less fat, sugar and salt.

Some tips for prepping at home are making a precise list, lining up recipes and lists of ingredients, shopping when you aren’t hungry and preparing five main dishes at a time to see you through a few days. Involve your family in choosing foods, shopping and preparing foods, Walter says. Many simple and quick recipes are on online sites, she said, referencing these from Southern Living.

Consider a New Approach to Dieting

Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, researched successful dieters and how they were different from others. Her research results have received national attention.

“Our research shows that instead of creating rules to avoid one’s favorite treats, dieters should focus on eating healthy foods that they enjoy,” David said. “Dieters who restrict themselves from consuming the foods they love most may be setting themselves up for failure. Instead, they may be better off by allowing occasional ‘treats’ and focusing attention on healthy foods that they enjoy and making it a point to include those tasty but healthy foods in their diet.”

Read the full article.

Be Humble and Helpful

In hard times, you know how much a helping hand means — and how humbling those times can be. So it might be good to resolve to look for opportunities to assist in 2019, while remembering not to pat yourself on the back for doing so.

A decision to help someone else is influenced by time pressure, number of bystanders, empathy or a person's own distress — but that’s not all, says Baylor researcher Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience.

“While several factors influence whether people will volunteer to help, it appears that humble people, on average, are more helpful than individuals who are egotistical or conceited.”

Cultivate Patience — and Better Mental Health

People who are more patient toward others also tend to be more hopeful, grateful and satisfied with life, says Sara Schnitker, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. And there is more than one type of patience, including interpersonal patience — dealing with annoying people without losing your cool; handling life hardships — such as illness or unemployment — without frustration or despair; and coping with such daily hassles as traffic jams, computer woes and long lines.

In her research, Schnitker invited undergraduates to two weeks of patience training, where they learned to identify feelings and their triggers, regulate their emotions, empathize and meditate. If you want to build your own patience, she recommends following three steps: identify, imagine and sync.

First, take a moment to slow down an identify how you are feeling and why you might be feeling that way. Second, try to imagine or reappraise the situation from a different perspective or in a new way that helps you to be calm. Finally, sync with your purpose. Try to connect how what you are doing or enduring helps you pursue larger goals or your life purpose.

When Ailing, Talk to A Doctor Instead of Searching the Internet for Answers

Rather than heading to the doctor — or even the medicine cabinet — some people turn first to the Internet when they are ailing , according to a Baylor University researcher.

Especially for folks who have trouble handling uncertainty, "cyberchondria" — the online counterpart to hypochondria — worsens as they seek answers, says Thomas Fergus, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.

“They may become more anxious. And the more they search, the more they consider the possibilities,” he says.

Doubts about health also can trigger worries about medical bills, disability and job loss, he said. And that can lead to a Catch-22 of more Googling (sometimes of questionable sources). Rather than giving in to cyberchondria, resolve to call your doctor — and take what you read with a grain of salt.

In Conflicts with your Significant Other, Relinquish Power

During spats with your spouse or significant other, the most common thing people want is not an apology, but a willingness to relinquish power, says Keith Sanford, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences.

That comes in many forms, among them giving a partner more independence, admitting faults, showing respect and being willing to compromise. Following closely behind the desire for shared control was the wish for the partner to show more of an investment in the relationship by such ways as sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, listening and sharing chores and activities, Sanford said.

Sleep Better in the New Year

Writing a “to-do” list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study by Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Scullin's 2018 research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants who chronicled completed activities. Scullin suggests that writing a list may allow the brain to “offload” them instead of cycling through them repeatedly.

Other hints: Use the bed for sleep rather than studying or entertainment; keep a regular sleep schedule; avoid electronics near bedtime; don’t take long day naps; and stay away from stimulants at least six hours before bedtime.

Clear Out Clutter Without Getting Frazzled

“Don’t try to organize the entire house in one weekend,” said Elise King, assistant professor in the department of family and consumer sciences.

“You are much more likely to complete a task, especially one that you’ve probably been avoiding, if you break it into small goals. Don’t try to clean out an entire room over a weekend; instead, focus on the desk one week, the closet the next, and so forth.”

Finally, involve your family, strive to make organization a routine — and reward yourself for your efforts.

Break Away from the Smartphone

Baylor marketing researchers James Roberts and Meredith David, Ph.D. have conducted numerous studies on the effects of smartphone technology on relationships. Their studies on “phubbing” – phone snubbing – have garnered national and international interest, given the pervasiveness of smartphone technology and its impact on relationships.

Their studies have found:

“Although the stated purpose of technology like smartphones is to help us connect with others, in this particular instance, it does not,” David said. “Ironically, the very technology that was designed to bring humans closer together has isolated us from these very same people.”

Connect with:
Sara Perry, Ph.D.

Sara Perry, Ph.D.

Associate Professor - Management

Dr. Perry researches management-related topics, including remote work, negotiation, employee stress and health, innovation and leadership.

Work From HomeWFHGreat ResignationIndustrial and Organizational PsychologyManagement
Emily Hunter, Ph.D.

Emily Hunter, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Management, Hankamer School of Business

Negotiation and conflict management expert, revolutionizing the fundamentals of workplace psychology

Negotiation and conflict managementWork-Family IssuesStressWork-family conflict and balanceWorkplace Deviance
Meredith David, Ph.D.

Meredith David, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Marketing

Dr. David focuses on marketing strategies with an exploration of new technologies.

Strategic PlanningMarketingMarketing and CommunicationsConsumer PreferencesWell-Being
Michael Scullin, Ph.D.

Michael Scullin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Professor Scullin’s research investigates how sleep physiology impacts memory, education, health, and aging.

NeuroscienceSleep PhysiologyCognitive NeuroscienceSleep Neuroscience and CognitionPsychology
Elise  King, MID, M.A.

Elise King, MID, M.A.

Assistant Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences | Interior Design

Elise King, MID, M.A., is an Assistant Professor in Interior Design at Baylor University.

Sleep and Creativity19th and 20th Century Design HistoryCommunity EngagementInterior DesignFundamentals of Interior Design

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9 min

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Third, we recognize that many students, their family members, as well as Baylor faculty and staff members’ loved ones, have been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, adding a layer of financial stress. Fourth, many within the Baylor community – staff, faculty and students – have needed to juggle childcare and homeschooling their children as they continue to engage in their own work and/or educational expectations. Finally, the fear of contracting COVID-19, especially among the most vulnerable and high-risk populations, has been constantly present. Not only are we adjusting to this academic year with new ways of being and new protocols that keep us and one another safe, we’re also facing unexpected waves of fear and layers of grief for the missed events, opportunities and connections we had hoped to experience. As resilient as our community is, I think it’s important to remember we cannot “operate as usual” because things aren’t usual. 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I have also seen a beautiful response to the reality of this collective struggle in my interactions with Baylor faculty, staff and students that includes deep empathy for one another and an increase in valuing authenticity as we engage in the high-quality, meaningful work we each do. It has been a gift to witness Baylor community members holding space for colleagues’ and students’ vulnerability as we admit this is hard for various reasons and recognize that we cannot just push our way through this season. When we admit this isn’t easy and that we are all juggling so much to the best of our ability through thick layers of uncertainty, it gives those around us permission to admit their experiences, too. In fact, I think when we create space for that shared vulnerability and empathy in our interactions with others, we can better assess the current situation, remain present to one another and discern what steps are needed to move forward together, particularly because we’re not carrying an additional layer of effort pretending that everything is fine. That said, the Garland School of Social Work conducted a couple of well-being surveys since this summer to internally check in on how our faculty and staff are coping with this season and identify the biggest stressors they’re facing and sources of support. Our faculty and staff have also been continually checking in on our students through this season. Not only do we see many noting the same stressors that we’re all facing these days, normalizing how difficult this is for each of us, but the act of nonjudgmentally holding that space for ourselves and one another has been a tangible step of offering the care we know is uniquely woven into the Baylor experience. Q: How can individuals within the campus community tend to their spiritual health to close out the semester? I would invite readers to take a moment to pause and identify a few spiritual practices that uniquely support them well, even if that means thinking back to less stressful seasons. The key to note here is that these are practices which require regular engagement, similar to if we were to practice a new instrument or sport. Spiritual practices can vary based on our faith tradition and may include praying; meditating; centering prayer; reading our religious text; walking a labyrinth; journaling; practicing gratitude; listening to a sermon or faith-based podcast; praying over and contemplating scripture; engaging in creativity; practicing daily examen; or listening to spiritual music. Some practices may involve other individuals that can be done safely, including seeking spiritual direction, participating in a Bible or faith-based book study with others or engaging in worship (even virtually!). These practices can offer a sense of groundedness and a reminder that God is with us, including through this season. As we continue to navigate this season of uncertainty, it is critical that we intentionally weave in spiritual practices that offer rhythms, routines and a grounded faith that can support us well through the waves of difficulty. Especially on campus, I would encourage Baylor community members to follow along with Spiritual Life’s resources and events, or check out Better Together BU, a partnership supported by both Spiritual Life and Multicultural Affairs. Q: How can individuals within the campus community tend to their mental health to close out the semester? Tending to our mental health in this last stretch of the semester will be so important as we move into the stress of finals, the complex emotions tied to the holidays, grief with upcoming celebrations looking different this year (including how we celebrate holidays, who we celebrate with and the reality of many having lost loved ones to COVID-19) and the reality of seasonal affective disorder on the horizon. In fact, in a typical year, about 5% of U.S. adults have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), with another 10-20% having mild forms of it. In light of all of the added transition, uncertainty, complexity of caregiving and homeschooling while working/studying at home, layers of loneliness and grief, I do hope our Baylor students, staff and faculty will actively prioritize taking good care of their mental health and supporting others’ mental health care, too. One way I highlight this with my social work students is by recommending creating a self-care plan that pays attention to our physical health, mental health, social support and spiritual health. If we can identify some strategies to holistically care for ourselves well and be mindful of potential barriers to navigate, we may have more resilience and practices to draw from to cope with challenges and stressors that arise. Finally, although NAMI highlights that 1 in 5 of us are currently facing a mental health struggle, some studies have shown that over 80% of us will meet criteria for a mental illness by young adulthood or middle-age. Therefore, I highly recommend that anyone who is noticing any changes in their mood, diet, sleep habits, behaviors or overall well-being immediately reach out for help. Students are encouraged to reach out to Baylor’s Counseling Center, CARE team or the BARC. Faculty and staff also have resources available through Baylor’s employee assistance program. Other resources for finding a mental health provider include HelpPRO, Psychology Today, Low Cost Help or these additional resources. For those who are deeply struggling, please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text ‘HOME’ to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. As part of my faith and my social work values, I believe that each of us are worth caring for ourselves, including caring for our mental health alongside our spiritual and physical health. Q: What successes or bright spots have you seen within your campus experience that offer encouragement to how the Baylor Family has handled the crisis throughout the semester? I am regularly amazed by the Baylor students, faculty and staff, the ways we have navigated the crisis together this semester, and I am especially grateful for President Livingstone’s and Provost Brickhouse’s leadership since March. This semester, some bright spots have included Dr. Deborah Birx’s reflections on Baylor’s efforts to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, the Fall Faculty meeting and Dr. Peter Hotez’s appreciation of how Baylor leaders have kept the Baylor and Waco community safe and following along when Baylor students take over Baylor’s Instagram account (like Brandon Nottingham’s takeover on World Mental Health Day!). As the Garland School of Social Work’s associate dean for research and faculty development, I have also loved learning about the ways so many Baylor faculty are offering their unique research expertise and wisdom to serve others through this difficult time, such as Dr. Emily Smith’s “Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist” Facebook page to explain COVID-19 information. I’ve also been reminded of what a gift it is to be a part of the Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) and this community of faculty, staff and students. The resilience, creativity, love for serving others, dedication to the social work profession and care for our students is so apparent within the GSSW. I have especially seen how my faculty and staff colleagues have adapted courses and assignments, creatively considered students’ needs and juggled their research responsibilities while extending grace to themselves and one another as we navigate this season together as a school to the best of our ability. Similarly, seeing our students’ resilience, flexibility, support of one another, commitment to the profession and heart for the clients and communities they serve is truly inspiring. Finally, Dean Jon Singletary’s servant-leader heart for the GSSW and the ways he has supported our school through so much transition over the last five years has been a gift. One example of this includes the two hours of weekly well-being time he extends for all GSSW staff and faculty to use in support of our spiritual and mental health care. Q: What gives you hope for the spring semester and beyond as students continue through their academic endeavors? Truthfully, our students’ presence and their enthusiasm over the fields of study they are dedicating their lives to gives me hope. As a professor, there is nothing like watching a student become fully alive in the work they are passionate about and feel as though they were made to do. Our students’ willingness to fully participate in the transformational education that Baylor offers, especially in this difficult season of COVID-19, is an honor to witness as a professor and certainly gives me hope. Further, seeing the ways our students are empathically caring for their neighbor by following Baylor’s safety guidelines, growing in their faith, checking in on one another, understanding faculty and staff are doing their very best and continuing to demonstrate their determination to learn and grow is an inspiration. My hope and prayer for our students as well as our staff and faculty colleagues as we move through the remainder of the fall semester and into the spring is that they rest as they need to and prioritize taking good care of their mental and spiritual health. I also pray that we recognize as a community that by caring for our spiritual and mental health, by taking this season one day at a time, by trusting we are doing our best and by reaching out for help when needed, we give others permission to do the same.

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