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Making New Year Resolutions work for you

So, we are coming to the end of the second week of the year and you’re probably finding that your New Years Resolutions (if you made any) are getting harder and harder to keep.

But what can you do to increase your chances of success?

The Fresh Start Effect

One answer could be the fresh start effect. This is effect happens because of how our brain tends to store memories. Rather than work on one long continuum, our brain separates these memories into different “chapter” – just think how often do you now hear people refer to pre or post covid?

Each large temporal landmark signifies a new chapter to our life – getting married, buying a house, having kids etc. Our brain then takes these larger chapters and separates then into small ones such as a New Year. This break in our narrative helps to separate ourselves form the “old” us and all our previous failings to a “new” us with a fresh slate that is going to do better.

This is often why people start new diets or exercise regimes on a Monday or the 1st of the month as well. So even if you’re already struggling with your New Year Resolutions, getting a fresh start on the 1st of the month or a Monday could be just what you’re looking for. But also remember the old adage…

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

As most of my close friends will tell you, I love a good plan when it comes to life goals!

Planning, whilst possibly not the most thrilling part of Resolutions, is pretty important for success. People are more likely to stick to their goals if they have a workable plan. Depending on the goal it can help to break them into short-term goals (1-4 weeks), mid-term goals (1-6 months) and long-term goals (1 year+).

Tracking the goals can also help adherence. Depending on your type of goal you can find apps to help you track, charts to colour in, a good old fashioned tick list or even have two jars and moving objects such a paperclip from one to the other each time you complete a task can help as a visual aid. In fact, research shows that those that track their goals are more likely to succeed.

Finally, when planning your goals, make sure that you reward yourself for each milestone reached. This can be something as simple as a relaxing bath or eating out at a favourite restaurant (again these rewards will all be dependent on your goal and resources).

So, we’ve planned our goals, got our tracking and rewards system in place… What’s next?

We need to Change the System!

Now I’m not suggesting you go all V for Vendetta here – whilst we all imagine life could be better if politicians weren’t involved, I’m actually suggesting you focus on your daily routines or your system.

If we think about goals, they are only momentary change – most will have an end date. Whilst some goals are designed to have an end date (such as saving for a house deposit), others aren’t – think of how many people you know that have set a target weight. When this person has hit their target how long until they have put the weight back on?

This is because, despite have a clear-cut goal, they did not change the system in which the goal was set. They managed to diet (usually by focusing on restriction) but didn’t actually change their eating habits!

“But I don’t have a daily routine!” Some of you will scream at me.

Even the most unorganised of us will have a rough daily system. For example, we will brush our teeth in the morning when we get up (or at least I hope you do!). By concentrating on this system, we can use simple tricks to increase the likelihood of us hitting our goals and permanently changing our habits.

One way in which to do this is called anchoring. This is where we attach a new behaviour to an old one. Say one of your goals is to drink more water everyday – using the above example of brushing your teeth every morning, you could put a glass of water next to your toothbrush before going to bed, then when you go to brush your teeth in the morning the glass will be there for you to drink and get a start on your daily water intake!

This also helps make the good habit easy. If you want to change a habit, thing how you can make it easier. As humans, a majority of tend to be inherently lazy. We can also flip this the other way and make the bad habits more difficult. For instance, say you are trying to eat healthier but you know you have tendency to snack late at night when you’re bored – one way to make this more difficult is to not stock any of your chosen snacking items in the house. Then when at night you get the urge to snack, you will have to put your coat and shoes on and then walk/drive to the shops to get said items. How many of us can be bothered to do that? Not many I bet.

So if you are struggling with your New Year Resolutions, give the above steps a go and then let me know how you get on!



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