January is here and almost over…and it is often the same old story. We use the time between Christmas and New Year, or as it’s sometimes called ‘inbetweenmas,’ to reflect on the year gone by and make resolutions for the year ahead. The first two weeks of the year start well, you don’t touch a single cigarette or you hit the gym every night, but by February you are flagging and you start to feel disheartened.
In fact, the third Monday of January is known as the most ‘depressing’ day of the year or ‘Blue Monday. ’ One of the reasons is that most resolutions have failed by this point.
According to the researcher John Norcross, in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the population makes resolutions each New Year. The most popular include weight loss and exercise, reducing debt and stopping smoking.
Social Psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy say these resolutions could be doing us more harm than good. She says that when we set ourselves up to fail, we experience a negative backlash to our self-worth.
The key is not in ‘willing’ ourselves to change but in setting positive habit changes in our lives. While motivation will get us started in our quest for change, it is routine that will keep us going. Resolutions are often made when people want to motivate themselves, but in reality, many of us do not know how to change our bad habits.
So, how can we make resolutions and promises to ourselves, in January, or at any time of the year that we can stick to successfully? Here are a few suggestions:
- Happiness expert Shawn Achor says the key to success in achieving our goals is our mindset. When we reflect on the past year in a negative way, we are more likely to fail in sticking to resolutions in the year ahead. A positive state of mind releases neurochemicals (such as dopamine) that allow your brain to perceive greater possibilities.
- Use positive language when setting out your goals. Rather than saying ‘I will stop eating all that junk food’ try switching it to ‘I will eat five portions a day of nutritious fruit and vegetables.’ Just using more positive vocabulary focuses your energies in a positive way.
- Be true to yourself and always align your goals with your core beliefs. You are more likely to achieve success, if you take the time to examine and realise what it is you want the most.
- Set goals that are realistic. The way to do this is to make them specific and measurable. Start small! Rather than jotting down your general aims for the year, specify your plan of action in more detail and not only what you want to achieve but how you intend to do it.
- Seek support in reaching your goals by telling your friends and family about them. This way they can help keep you accountable along your journey. It might also be worth joining an online forum or community group of like-minded people with whom you can share your progress.
Inevitably, there will be times when you fall off the wagon. Don’t beat yourself up about those times. Remember how you felt when you first made that resolution and why you made it. The longer you can make small yet significant changes to your life, the more likely these are to become habit and routine … and result in success. Happy New Year and good luck!