Choose your New Year’s Resolution
Are you unhappy with one area of your life and, like me, thinking ‘I’ll sort that out in the New Year’? There’s too much to do in the weeks between now and Christmas to start any sort of new regime, and too much to be involved with to decide to eat less, or drink less, or be better with your finances, to name a few!
Or are you unlike me – someone who’s actually very good at being disciplined and in control of every area of your life? If so, you can still benefit from having a New Year’s resolution. If you spend half an hour of reflection at some point over the holidays to work out whether there are any areas of your life that could be improved with some targeted effort, e.g. a friend or relative you don’t keep in touch with as much as you’d like, or how much money you’re spending on going food shopping daily instead of planning ahead a bit more, or how much money you spend in the sales on clothes you don’t end up wearing, or perhaps you’d like to be able to afford to support a charity – with donations or with time volunteering. There are always things that can be done to improve your life, it just might not be as apparent as to others.
Do you really WANT to change something?
Find or focus on an area of your life you really do want to change. If you aren’t really convicted to make a difference at the start, then you’re unlikely to keep motivated once the busyness of life recommences, before you know it it’ll be June and half the year will have flown past!
Work out where you want to get to, whether it’s a particular lower weight, or having seen the friend you were out of touch with twice in 2014, or whether it’s having started volunteering for your chosen charity by March. Be realistic with your goals. If you aim to lost 2 stone in one month, there is a very slim chance you’ll be able to reach any weekly goals, and so you’ll become disheartened. Aim for long term improvements rather than instant results. Perhaps you’d like to be in touch with your aging grandparents more – but if they live a few hours’ drive away and you’re limited with how many weekends you can have off work or how much you can spend on travel each month – don’t forget that a visit every 2 months is a marked improvement on only seeing them at Christmas, for instance. Start small and achievable, and if you find it’s easier than you imagined, then commit to doing more. But be proud of your achievements as you see the benefits, rather than self-critical.
Similarly, if you’re trying to spend less money on throw away fashion – don’t go cold turkey! It’s a difficult change to make if you like to have something new for the weekend and don’t wear the same outfit to work twice! Try to make sure you’re using all the clothes in your wardrobe, as finding something you haven’t worn for over a year is as good as having something new. Perhaps cut your spending in half – only go every other week to find something new for the weekend.
How are you going to achieve your goals?
What method are you going to use? If you’re going to join a boot camp, make sure you can afford the cost of the session’s long term. Otherwise you may be better off taking up running or swimming or something else which is more affordable long term. Or if money isn’t an issue but self-motivation is, perhaps a boot camp or something like a zumba class would be ideal, with a professional there to lead the way. Work out which way will most suit your personality, and what’s most likely to make you slip up with your resolutions.
Work out some milestones to work towards, again, be realistic. Work out how much money you plan to ‘save’ each week or month, or how many visits or phone calls to grandparents or distant friends you plan to make, and tick them off as you work through them! Reward yourself for little achievements, when you’ve saved a decent amount of money on clothes shopping; perhaps treat yourself to something different with a third of what you’ve saved, and save the rest! Before you know it you could be paying off debts, credit, or saving for an exotic holiday!
Keep your Eye on the Prize
Use something around the house as a reminder to keep you focused and motivated. Whether a picture of a supermodel or a picture of yourself in old size 10 jeans for weight loss goals, or a picture of your grandparents or friends who you’re trying to be more in touch with. If you’re trying to stay off alcohol use a photo of when you looked awful at the end of a night out, or misbehaved or something, to remind you why you’re abstaining or reducing how drunk you get. For charitable giving, set up a direct debit. You will become used to the payment leaving your account on payday when you can spare it – rather than leaving it to be paid manually, when you’re more likely to have already spent some of your wages and be more torn between donating and spending it on something more ‘urgent’. To keep focused, follow the charity on twitter or Facebook to see what they’re actually doing, the stories will keep you motivated to be involved in the good work they do.
Last, But Not Least: Don’t Beat Yourself Up!
Implementing new ‘traits’ or ‘behaviours’ can be tricky! It goes against what has up until now been our default setting. You have to teach your brain new patterns, by changing your habits you will gradually start to learn these new behaviours and they will become easier, it won’t always be as difficult as it will be at the start of the year. The key is repeated new thought patterns and behaviours – so the more you manage to stick to your new year’s resolutions, the more likely you are to succeed in changing your life rather than simply ‘making it’ through the year without too many slip ups. Just like with weight loss case studies – the people making the best long term health improvements and keeping weight off are the people who’ve found maintainable new practices, not the people who’ve managed to diet or starve themselves short term, as that’s not maintainable for long term solutions.
As it is difficult to do, another key factor is to not beat yourself up about any slip ups, and in some circumstances even allow yourself ‘off the wagon’ every now and again (not with addictions of course!). With weight loss, or trying to improve your sleeping patterns, or curbing your spending, – the occasional chocolate bar in the month, or the occasional late night on a Friday or late sleep in on a Saturday, or impulsive £5 on new pyjama shorts at Tesco, won’t ruin your weekly improvements. As long as the overall improvements outweigh the slip ups, it’s still worth you doing. And none of us are perfect!