How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions

New Year's Resolutions2014 is now already three days old, with the year going off literally with a bang following that hugely spectacular and big-budget firework display by the London Eye as hundreds of thousands of people crowded into the capital to watch the event.

With a new year comes the chance for self-improvement, forgiveness for events from the previous year, a time to learn from mistakes, a chance to start again, strengthen relationships with loved ones, and strive to overhaul your lifestyle – if it needs it of course!

All these factors usually come in the form of something which dates back to the time of Julius Caesar; New Year’s resolutions. Romans would typically make a vow to be good to each other, and this is something which some people today probably still vow to do, but as times have changed in the modern day, latter day resolutions reflect this. ‘Cut down on Facebook’ or ‘Sell unwanted stuff on Ebay’ show how modern technology has impacted our outlook on life.

Things that will never change, regardless of the times, is the strife for many of us to try and give our health, diet, nutrition, exercise habits, etc. a boost each and every year. Unfortunately, the statistics of success with resolutions reads pretty grim. In 2007 Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol carried out a study of 3,000 people and found that 88% of those who set New Year’s resolutions failed to meet them. This was in spite of the fact that over half (52%) of the participants had confidence of meeting their goals at the start of the study.

Therefore, you might be wondering what you can do to make yourself part of that elite 12% who actually manage to make their resolutions stick. If so, read on…

. Plan out small, realistic steps to your goals

Realising your ultimate goal, say losing weight, can be intimidating at the beginning of your journey. Creating one giant goal of simply ‘lose weight’ means you are much less likely to accomplish this unless you create some broken-down, personal, actionable steps. For instance, try writing down a series of smaller milestones that you can do before you reach the bigger picture. This could be ‘joining the local gym’, ‘switch from whole milk to skimmed’, ‘go for a 20 minute jog on Tuesday and Thursday mornings’.

. Anticipate obstacles that could arise

Focusing back onto the previous example of losing weight and going for jogs as part of this, an obstacle for this could be the weather. Plan ahead and check weather forecasts; is it going to be cold the next morning? Is it going to rain? Make sure you are fully equipped for everything and have appropriate running shoes, gloves, a woolly hat and make yourself visible with a reflective jacket if it is dark in the morning. If possible, having a treadmill at home could keep you on your weight loss goal for the occasions it is simple not feasible to get out for a jog. Or if you are worried about temptations with ‘bad’ foods whilst trying to adhere to a healthy diet, create avoidance tactics.

. One thing at a time

A limited amount of willpower we possess means that tackling multiple resolutions simultaneously is just asking for trouble, and likely unattainable. Focus on one goal at a time and when you have accomplished a particular goal, move on to the next. Remember you have twelve months to hit your targets, which brings us on to our next point; Try to keep your resolutions to an absolute maximum of ten.

. Don’t beat yourself with each slip up

You are only human at the end of the day and there is a good chance you will fall off track at least once or twice along the way to reaching your goals. Say you are quitting smoking as one of your resolutions for the year and something happens during that year that upsets you, and you smoke one cigarette. Don’t dwell on it, learn from it. Slip-ups like that actually usually strengthen a person’s resolve to meet their goals. Find ways to manage stress or discover other things to do when you find yourself tempted by that cigarette or chocolate cake (if trying to lose weight).

. Document your progress

There are many ways to do this in the modern age of technology. You could maintain a word document tracking your progress through the year as you reach each goal, describing your emotions and feelings on a daily basis, or what temptations and triggers you faced if you had slipped up. Positive and negative actions made during the year allow you to reflect on the time in an honest way. There are also many smartphone apps that will allow you to track your progress and alert you to what the triggers are to your behaviour patterns. Consider joining online forums where you can find support in others who might be going through similar experiences to yourself. Having people to share your successes and struggles throughout the year will make it easier to achieve your New Year’s resolutions.

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