Determination to make that life change can wane within a short time, but there are simple ways to stay motivated and help achieve your goals
The champagne glasses heralding the New Year have been cleared away into the cupboards and now is the time that many people who want to turn over a new leaf make promises to themselves about 365 days of good choices.
New Year’s resolutions often aim to balance out a hedonistic holiday season and focus on physical health and wellbeing, with many people aiming to take up exercise, cut down on treats and embrace vegetables, or spend less time on social media.
But a significant part of the challenge is seeing the resolution through.
So how can we ensure our aspirations will be successful?
1. Be realistic
The easiest way to fall off the wagon when it comes to your New Year’s resolutions is to choose an unattainable goal. If you have a sweet tooth, deciding never to eat sweets again — or at least for the rest of the year — means there’s disappointment in store when cravings strike. According to YouGov, around a quarter of adults who made resolutions in 2020 failed to keep any of them. Only 48% kept some. Instead, you can aim to cut back on some habits you’d like to change instead of giving them up altogether.
2. Make positive choices
If you’d like to cut back on treats this year, Laura Warren of Elite Living Nutrition insists it’s all about decision-making. “I will be the first one with a treat in my mouth, but it’s the choices you make,” she said. “Rather than picking up a box of Roses, opt for Green & Black’s organic 70, 80 or 90 per cent chocolate, or Lindt chocolate. You will eat far less of them as the percentage of real cocoa is pretty high compared to other brands.”
3. Set a SMART plan
If you’ve worked in the corporate world, you’ll be familiar with SMART, an acronym coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 for specific goals. Turns out it can work for resolutions as well as management. To ensure success, your resolution should first of all be specific. So, if you want to lose weight, how much? Next, it should be measurable. So take photos of those stubby fingernails you’re trying to grow. It should be achievable, so set realistic savings goals. It must be relevant to you and what you’d like to achieve. And lastly, it should be time-bound.
4. Stay positive
It’s difficult to make changes to your life but focusing on the negative side will only discourage you. Instead of thinking about how challenging it is to quit smoking, saying no to a drink when all your friends are partaking, or getting up to go to the gym when you’d rather watch television, try and reward yourself with the benefits and impacts it will have on your life. Direct your energy towards the positives to make them happen.
5. Make it a habit
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power Of Habit, a bestselling book exploring the science behind habit creation and reformation, recommends breaking a habit into three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward. He said: “First, choose a cue, like leaving your running shoes by the door, then pick a reward, say, a piece of chocolate, when you get home from the gym. Eventually, when you see the shoes, your brain will start craving the reward, which will make it easier to work out day after day.”
6. Use an app
Want to take up running? It can be daunting if you haven’t pounded the pavements since you were a child. An injury after pushing yourself too hard from the start can also put a halt to your gallop. The Couch to 5K app follows an eight-week plan that gets you from sitting on your settee to running (or walk-running) your first 5K in three 30-minute sessions per week. If your resolution is to do more meditation, the Calm app is a great starting point if it’s affordable, including the Seven Days of Calm course.
7. Choose resolutions that make your life better
Resolutions don’t have to be associated with activities we sometimes consider difficult or unenjoyable — losing weight or going to the gym, for example. Some people instead choose to take on an activity or set an intention that they enjoy, such as a reading goal or promising to take 30 minutes for themselves each day. Enjoyable resolutions not only add something to our lives, but teach us a new way of being in the world, setting long-term habits that are easier to implement.
8. Share your goals
Giving up smoking? Try to avoid going out for a break with work colleagues who smoke. Or if you want to eat healthily, make it an entire family endeavour. Likewise, make it easier to go out to a pub with your friends by buddying up with someone also giving Dry January a go. Sharing goals with your partner or asking a friend to walk with you in the evening means there’s always someone there to offer encouragement or give you the support to continue if you’re finding it challenging to stick to your resolution.
9. Keep moving
Many start the year with a commitment to get fit and join a gym, but getting outside — whatever the weather — can achieve surprisingly amazing results in terms of fitness, and also has benefits for mental health and wellbeing. If walking 10,000 steps is too difficult, aim for an extra 1,000 than your usual to make progress towards your goal of better health overall. “You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym. A 30-45 minute brisk walk moving the arms and legs will do you the world of good,” said Ms Warren.
10. Stick to it
Research conducted by Strava, the social network for athletes, has discovered that January 12 is the fateful day when your motivation may wane. But don’t give up. Even if you’ve caved by mid-January, you can always start again, and before you know it you’ll be back on track.