How to create lasting resolutions
How to make New Year lifestyle changes you won't want to give up.
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Goals about how you’re going to become the picture of health are easy to make in early January. Unfortunately, resolutions made in the midst of seasonal excess can feel hard to stick to once you get into January.
Here are some tips on how to make resolutions that last beyond the New Year.
Start early – don’t wait until New Year to make your resolutions.
“Don’t expect to do everything on 1st January and for life to suddenly be different,” says chartered clinical psychologist Dr Abigael San. “Picking a specific date to make radical changes puts a lot of pressure on you. It sets you up to fail.”
You’ll have a better chance of success if you change your habits and behaviours gradually. Dr San suggests making short-, medium- and long-term goals. Start with something you can do immediately that will contribute to the big change you want to make.
For example, if you’re keen to cut down on your drinking, you might decide to replace any drinking you normally do later in the evening with a hot milky drink. It’s a simple change but you’re likely to start seeing results straight away – for one thing, it’ll help you doze off and the absence of alcohol will improve the quality of your sleep.
Concentrate on what you can have, rather that what you’re giving up. Don’t vow to abstain from all sweet or fatty foods, but try to have your five fruit and veg every day. If you enjoy a glass of wine focus on drinking within the low risk drinking guidelines, and not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week and have several drink free days every week.
Your good intentions might be fading by now. So look out for “triggers” for the habits you’re looking to change. For example, does a bad day at work always make you reach for a large glass of wine when you get home? If you want to change your habit, you need to recognise your triggers for drinking alcohol. If you’ve had a stressful day, try going for a long walk, call a friend to talk it through or treat yourself to a nice meal out.
Coach and therapist Fiona Robyn suggests rewarding yourself for keeping up new habits. If you’ve taken up a new sport, buy yourself some fancy new equipment. Or treat yourself to that film, show or exhibition you’ve wanted to see so it really feels like you’ve reached a milestone in your quest to eat and drink more healthily.
Remember to look out for signs of the progress you’ve made – even if it’s a tiny difference, it will help keep you motivated.
“Take pictures of yourself in December,” suggests Dr San. “For example, photograph a part of your body you want to tone up, or your skin if it’s affected by unhealthy eating and drinking. Take more pictures during the year and see the changes you’ve made.”
Talk about it. Keep people posted about how you’re doing. Remind them what you’re trying to achieve so they can encourage you to keep going.
“It’s really helpful to get the support of others,” says Robyn. “It’s easier to motivate yourself to go to the gym when you’ve already arranged to meet your friend there.”
If you need help setting goals and sticking to them download our free MyDrinkaware app.