resolution reboot

Psychology tips to help you stick with your new year's resolutions!

Psychology tips to help you stick with your new year's resolutions!

New Year Resolution #1.  Be more awesome than last year!

Each January, half of us make New Year’s resolutions.  Making resolutions is easy, but keeping them is hard!

The beginning of a new year seems the ideal time for a fresh start and we’re inspired to be and do better.  Resolutions are generally about some lifestyle change - Losing weight, doing more exercise, quitting smoking and saving money top the list.    Most can stick to their goals for at least a week, but less than 10% are still on target six months later. 

The main reason that people don’t stick to their resolutions is simply because changing any behaviour that has become routine can be very tricky.  Others set themselves too many, often unrealistic goals and give up when failure seems inevitable.   It can be hard to keep up resolution-enthusiasm months after you've put away the Christmas tree, but it's not impossible.

Don’t give up on a “new year-improved-you”. 

Here are a few tips to help you stick to your goals! 

1.     Be honest with yourself.  Take time to listen to your heart to understand what you really want to accomplish.  Having a clear vision of what you want and WHY you want it, often makes it easier to reorganise your life to achieve your goals. 

2.    Be realistic. Begin by making resolutions that you can keep and that are practical. If you want to reduce your alcohol intake because you drink every day, don’t immediately go teetotal. Instead, try to cut out alcohol every other day or once every three days. Breaking up the longer-term goal into more manageable short-term, bite-sized goals can be more beneficial and rewarding. The same principle can be applied to exercise or eating more healthily.

3.    Be specific.  Write down your goal in very detailed terms.  Instead of “I want to exercise more,” map out exactly what you will do.  “I plan to go to the gym three times a week after work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I will go with my friend (insert name here!) and we will exercise for 30-minutes each time” is far better because it sets out an intention and plan of action.  Be as specific as possible.

4.    Do it with others.   Trying to change habits on your own can be very difficult.  Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to achieve your goal. Is there a group of like-minded people that you can join?  Is there someone who has already achieved a similar goal who can act as a mentor?  Perhaps an online community can offer support?  People who have already “been there, done that” can be great motivation while you form new habits. 

5.    Do one thing at a time. One of the quickest routes to failure is trying to keep too many resolutions at once. If you want to be fitter and healthier – make one change at a time. Give up drinking. Give up smoking. Join a gym. Eat more healthily. But don’t do them all at once! Just choose one and do your best to stick to it. Once you have got one under your control, THEN begin the next.

6.    Don’t limit yourself.  Changing your behaviour, or some aspect of it, doesn’t have to be restricted to the start of the New Year. It can be anytime.

7.    Lapses are normal.  Accept lapses as a normal part of the process. It’s inevitable that when  trying to give up something (alcohol, cigarettes, junk food) that there will be times you fall off the wagon. Luckily, the wagon is still there and you can climb back on. Bad habits take years to become ingrained and there are no quick fixes in making major lifestyle changes.  

If you have tried unsuccessfully to change your behaviour, it can be tempting to give up trying. If you are getting stuck, it may be that you just need to learn some better techniques.  You can’t expect to get the best out of yourself without some guidance.  Just like any athlete, willpower alone is not enough - you need the right coach. A clinical psychologist is essentially a type of coach who can teach you evidence-based strategies to help you reach your goals – whether it is the new year or not.

It can take time, persistence and lots of hard work to change behaviour. The most important thing is to never stop trying and to not give up hope.  Sure, keeping resolutions can be tough, but nothing worthwhile comes easy and life is too short to live anything but your bestlife#.

article by Lydia Rigano

this article appeared in DUOMagazine January 2017