Every January millions of people resolve resolve to better themselves in some way - whether by stopping smoking, losing weight, changing job, getting fit and any number of other promises. But the harsh truth is that more than a third of people won’t achieve their New Year’s Resolutions in 2017.
Around 75 per cent of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half are still on target six months later, one study found, while 5 per cent don’t even last 24 hours.
The truth is that fad diets and extreme get fit quick regimes don’t usually work because they’re too difficult to stick to in the long-term. However, building healthy habits into our day-to-day lives is one way to make them stick. Here are our top tips to making resolutions that work.
1 Be realistic
If you want to reduce your alcohol intake, don’t decide to suddenly go teetotal.
Instead, avoid alcohol every other day or have a drink once a week, or reduce caffeine by a third rather than all at once.
"It is better to set small, concrete goals and allow yourself time to practice and integrate the changes," says Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University.
2. Plan your route
'If your goal is to quit smoking, start by picking a specific day to begin to quit and a concrete, achievable goal such as reducing the number of cigarettes smoked by five per week,” says clinical psychologist Christopher Adams. “After maintaining this goal for several weeks, build on your success and reduce the number again. Also, be sure to provide yourself with ample incentive or reward for each step along the way.'
3. Write it down
Keep a record of your achievements, either in a notebook, on your phone, on a calendar – anywhere you can see your progress, says Elaine Kinglet, who teaches writing-based mindfulness and is an evangelist for the potential of writing things down to inspire and enrich our lives.
4. Look ahead
Nutritionist Lowri Turner teaches weight loss clients ‘future pacing’ - when you look at food or drink and imagine what it's going to taste like before you eat or drink it.
“Good future pacing encourages you to slow down your decision-making about foods and drink, so that you can make a balanced decision,” says Turner. “When you see something that tempts you, ask yourself not just 'will that taste good?' but also 'how will it make me feel 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days from now?' This stops the smash and grab approach to eating and should help you stick to a healthier eating plan.”
5. Be SMART
That is, set ‘SMART’ goals: ie goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-related, says Professor Mark Griffiths. Resolutions are much easier to follow when the steps to achieve them are clearly spelled out and become a part of one's daily structure or routine.
6. Tackle one thing at a time
Sure, give up drinking. And smoking. And join a gym. But don’t try to do everything at once. Chose just one resolution and do your best to stick to it. With one thing under your belt, you can begin a second.
7. Be aware
Remain conscious of WHY you set the resolution. "By keeping the intention behind your goals in mind, it’s easier to remain on track even when life threatens to impede your progress," says personal trainer Brittany Baldwin.
8. Say it loud
Go on, announce your goals. If you tell people you’re trying to lose weight for example, they’re less likely to push biscuits on you just because they’ve put the kettle on. Perhaps you could set yourself the goal that if you go back on a planned resolution you have to email your best friend first – that way you might just stick with your resolve. And don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from those you love.
9. Prepare to fail
If you fail in your goal, don’t let it stop you trying. Just because you’ve lapsed for a day or a weekend doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Just start again tomorrow.
“Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why people abandon their New Year's resolutions,' says clinical psychologist Twila Pearson. “But reverting back to old behavior happens and should not be viewed as a failure. It is actually an important learning opportunity.”
10. Practice makes perfect
“If you want to change undesirable habits the good news is that although it takes a while to form new habits it only takes a moment to begin to change them,” says psychotherapist Mandy Pearson. “You may have practiced your habits for a while to get good at them but you can begin a new practice any time. People have an infinite capacity to learn new things.”
11. Look for the joy
You don't have to see adopting healthier habits as depriving yourself of something, the problem with many promises to 'give up' something or 'lose' weight.
“If you experience joy and pleasure in what you eat, how you move and rest, it can help your goal to adopt a healthier lifestyle,” says naturopathic doctor Kristi Hughes. ”When we focus too much on reducing or excluding things from our life, it can feel oppressive or depressing. Find a healthy joyful approach to seeking an ideal state of life.”
12. Practice self-care
The importance of managing stress is paramount, says nutritional therapist Jo Gamble. “Honour your ‘me time’. Schedule it in your diary, whether it be yoga, walking the dog, taking a long bath or meeting a friend. It’s important to practice self care in order to care for others.”
13. Be kind to yourself
Being good to yourself during the process of change will help you keep going. So ditch any guilty feelings and acknowledge that you've already done the hardest thing by taking the first step.
14. Buddy up
Trying to change habits with other like-minded souls around you can be easier than going it alone – joining groups is a surefire way of getting closer to your goal, and a good source of support when it all goes wrong too. "Pair up with someone and change together. It’s about being accountable to each other, and knowing that someone else expects you to be better is a powerful motivator," says life coach Michael Corthell.
15. Visualise yourself succeeding
See yourself throwing away the cigarettes, eating healthy food, going for a run. Picture yourself smiling and enjoying your achievement
16. Identify your ‘triggers’
Acknowledge the things that make you go off track and allow for the odd slip up. You are human after all, and for many people it takes a few attempts before they succeed.
17. Good Luck!
Let us know how you get on...