Do you make New Year resolutions every year? If you do, you are not alone! More than 50% per cent of the adult population make New Year resolutions. But only about 10% keep to their resolutions all through the year.
Keep to your New Year resolutions
But why is maintaining resolutions so tough? Well, for starters, most people tend to have expectations that are too vague or unrealistic. They might say that they want to lose 20 kg before Easter – and even though it is doable, it is, however, quite difficult without a more detailed plan. And it’s one thing to wish for something, but another to actually do it. But with planning, commitment and persistence, it is possible to change your life and make a new habit into a permanent one.
Also remember to be as specific as possible when you write your resolutions. Make sure they are realistic and doable. Instead of wanting to run a marathon in six months, maybe it is more realistic to opt for 10 km?
Step 1 – WHY
The first thing to do, when making a New Year resolution, is to ask yourself why you want to make it. Instead of just saying, ‘I want to lose weight,’ try writing down up to five reasons why you want to lose weight. Maybe it is because you want to be able to play football with your kids. Maybe your family has a history of diabetes and you want to minimise the risk of getting the disease yourself. Or maybe you are getting married in six months and you want to look your absolute best for the wedding. The reasons can be many, but keep them in mind and write them down. And keep the paper in a place where you will see it on a regular basis, so you can use it to motivate yourself when you feel your dedication beginning to slip.
Step 2 – HOW
When you have defined why you want to make changes, you should think about how you can do this. If your goal is to lose weight, you can go about this in various ways: you can eat better; eat less; avoid empty calories from, for example, refined sugar; exercise more, etc. If your goal is to minimise your risk of diabetes, you can lose weight, become more active, quit smoking, avoid stress, etc. So try to define the various ways you can reach your goal.
And break them down into reasonable steps instead of focusing on a goal that is very far into the future. For example, if you plan to be able to run 5 km within three months, the next goal can be the 10 km within the next three months.
Step 3 – WHAT
The whats are all the specific things you can change in order to obtain your goals. Try to decide on positive ‘rules’. Instead of saying, ‘I am not allowed to eat bread,’ try saying, ‘I am going to put at least two different vegetables on my plate every time I eat.’ Or instead of saying, ‘I am not allowed to take the lift,’ try saying, ‘Every time I have the option, I will use the stairs.’
This way your resolution will become a positive action that you do over and over again – until it becomes a permanent habit. And you won’t feel as if you’re missing out on something.
Step 4 – TAKE ACTION
So far you have defined your wishes and figured out why they are important and how you can make them come true. The next step is then to ‘Just do it!’ No more talking – now it is time to take action.
And when it comes to new habits, take a tip from the Scouts: be prepared!
Make it easy for yourself to stay on the right track. So if, for example, you want to lose weight, start by getting rid of all the unhealthy food (sweets, crisps, cakes, soft drinks, etc.) in your pantry, fridge, office, car, and instead restock with healthy foods such as veggies, fresh fruit and mineral water.
Actually Cornell University researchers found that women who kept healthy food visible in their kitchens had lower BMIs than those who left junk food out on worktops.
If your resolution is about getting more exercise, then make sure to schedule your workouts in your diary. Make it a habit to schedule one week ahead – say, every Sunday – and stick with your plan! If you try to achieve your fitness goals week by week rather than ‘sometime’, you will have more success, and that in itself is more motivating.
It is also a great idea to get a workout buddy, so you have someone to be accountable to.
Step 5 – KEEP GOING
Results won’t come within a week, and maybe not within a month, or a year. Depending on your goals, you need to stay focused and keep going.
Remember that you might have spent 20, 30, 40 or more years on teaching what would become your ‘old habits’ to your body and mind. And our bodies and brains are built in such a way that we always have a preference for the things we know best – because they are the easiest. So it is very hard to break old habits and build new ones … Persistency is key!
Research shows that anticipating rewards may help you become more devoted to your goal. Sure, it's a bribe of sorts, but experiment with promising yourself a manicure after a week of true commitment or a new gym outfit after two.
It can also be a good idea to share your resolution with the people around you – with your family, friends, colleagues and so on. Get them to cheer for you! Tell them when it is hard, or why you prioritise the way you do. And be proud and let them know when you reach some of your goals. They will be just as proud of you as you are.
Did you know?
That a week into the new year, just 77 per cent of resolution makers are still on track? And after six months, only about 40 per cent will have stayed the course, according to University of Pennsylvania research?
That the most popular New Year resolution is ‘Losing weight’? Other popular resolutions include ‘Quit smoking’, ‘Get a new job’, ‘Spend more time with my family’, ‘Spend less money’, ‘Buy a pet’, ‘Find true love’ and ‘Work out regularly’.
That more people in their 20s keep their resolutions than people older than 50? Perhaps it is because breaking old habits is much more difficult than making new, beneficial ones ...
That New Year is the oldest of all holidays, as it was first observed in ancient Babylon as long as 4000 years ago? The tradition of making New Year resolutions also dates back to the early Babylonians.