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How to help achieve your new year resolutions

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THERE is nothing transformative about the start of January. So, although traditionally this is the day we collectively resolve to exercise more, eat better or change other habits, we could do this 364 other days in the year.

THERE is nothing transformative about the start of January. So, although traditionally this is the day we collectively resolve to exercise more, eat better or change other habits, we could do this 364 other days in the year.

However, while there is no mystical advantage to Jan 1, there is the knowledge that you are changing something at a time when millions of others are also embarking on this journey. New year resolutions can bring a feeling of renewal – out with the old and in with the new.

This year more than most, it is understandable that many of us will be thinking about our health and will want to make a change. No matter how well-intentioned you are about your new year resolution, unfortunately, most of us will not make it into February having succeeded.

We know from research and behavioural modelling that it is far easier to make a change than stick to it. But failing is not inevitable – after all, some people (albeit, a minority) maintain the change they aimed for. How do they succeed where most of us fail?

One way is that they instil meaning in their resolution. Rather than just saying they aim to lose a set amount of weight, they link this to how they imagine they will look, and this sustains the effort required to achieve the goal.

Equally, it may help to pick a goal you want to achieve rather than one you think you should or think others believe you should. Internal motivation is much stronger than external motivation. The latter is like a chore, whereas the former has commitment to the cause baked in – a great place to start.

It may seem obvious but use the experience of past attempts to change. What worked? What did not? Crucially, what can you do this time around to avoid falling into the same traps?

While we are on the theme of past resolutions, try to think about a new resolution rather than recycling that old one. Even if the theme is the same. Rather than some vague ambition, set a target that is realistic and say by when.

Better yet, get into the detail about how you will do this, such as specifying on which days you will exercise and for how long. Not only does this give you a clear plan, but it can be measured along the way to assess your progress.

That brings us on to another element for potential success – regular rewards. Giving yourself small rewards not only feels good but it also acts as a motivator to keep going. Finally, be flexible. Sticking rigidly to your goal when it becomes quickly apparent that it is the wrong time is a recipe for failure. Instead, adapt the goal as you go along.

Life will always throw up the unexpected, so be ready to reset or adjust your goal to ensure you have a chance of achieving it. View the resolution as an experiment with yourself rather than a fixed commandment. – The Independent


Ian Hamilton lectures in mental health at the Department of Health Sciences, University of York.
Originally published on https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/voices/new-year-resolution-2022-b1985301.html
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