How to Make New Years Resolutions and Keep Them
As we wind our way towards the end of the old year, many of us promise that we will do things differently come the New Year. For most of us, what we hope to change often remains a pipe-dream. Sometimes, our plans never get off the ground, while we optimistically start putting others into practice only to gradually slip back into our old habits. This can be frustrating, and may make us feel like we have failed. In reality, the reason many of our New Year’s resolutions do not pan out the way we want is that those resolutions are either unrealistic in the first place, or we do not think ahead as to how we will put them into action.
However, there are things you can do to stop this from happening. The first essential thing to do is to write down what you hope to achieve. Do not be too ambitious in your plans. We are all creatures of habit, and we will struggle to make wide-ranging changes in the way we live our lives. It may be best to decide on just one change that you will try to implement right at the start of the New Year. When you have succeeded in this, move on to the next change you would like to make. After all, there is no specific requirement to start making positive changes only at the start of each year.
A good place to start is to look at what resolutions you have made in the past, and how they worked out. If you failed to stick with them, analyze the reasons you failed. This is not simply a matter of chiding yourself, and feeling you do not have the willpower to succeed. There are always reasons people lapse. If you can work out what these reasons are, you will be better able to understand your actions, and be better placed to avoid making the same mistakes.
When you write down what you want to achieve, expand on that. The more detail you can fill in, the better. For example, you may want to quit smoking, a very worthwhile thing to do. Rather than just writing down a desire to quit, make a list of reasons quitting will benefit you. Secondly, write down the obstacles you are likely to face. If you’ve tried quitting before, you will know that cravings will continue for some time, so work out a way to deal with these. Make a note of the situations that made you relapse in the past, and devise a plan to avoid as many of these situations as you can in the future. Being prepared to deal with cravings is vital.
We all know that things like being overweight or smoking are not good for our health. Unfortunately, that knowledge is rarely enough to keep us going when we try to change our habits. Positive reinforcement can make the difference between succeeding and failing. For example, you could put the money you save on tobacco into a moneybox, and use it to buy treats at the end of each month. Likewise, do not try to avoid all high calorie foods. Set yourself realistic targets for losing weight, perhaps each week or each month. When you achieve your target, reward yourself, but only in moderation. Eating one slice of your favorite cake each month is not going to run your weight loss regimen off the rails.
Record your progress
This is another form of positive reinforcement. Every day you manage to fulfill your resolution, write yourself a congratulatory note. If you are trying to lose weight, remind yourself each day of what foods you have managed to avoid. Weigh yourself once a week, rather than every day. As you see your weight coming down, that increases your incentive to stick with your new, healthier diet. If you quit smoking, make a daily note of how much you’ve managed to save that day, and keep a running total.
Prepare for setbacks
Develop a positive mental attitude to your efforts rather than a negative one. For example, if you yield to temptation and eat something you did not want to, or light up a cigarette, do not see that as a failure. Instead of beating yourself up, congratulate yourself on the positive progress you have made so far. View your lapse as a setback, but one that is not going to stop you in your efforts to succeed.
Set short-term goals
Every long journey is really just a series of short ones. Instead of making a bald statement that you are going to quit unhealthy foods or smoking, decide that you are going to get through today without these. The task can seem much less daunting when you break it into small chunks like this.
You can use these techniques to help you stick to any resolutions you make. Good luck!