How to change your mindset and keep going on your New Year resolutions

Apples

Is eating more fruit one of your New Year’s resolutions © iStock

Most of us make New Year’s resolutions but only one in 10 of us will achieve them, and many of us will ditch them this week – less than a fortnight in!

However, changing our mindset can be the key to success.

Why do we ‘fail’?

We choose ‘New Year, New Start, New Me’ resolutions because we’d like to be better or do more, often because we feel we should change, rather than because we really want to.

So our resolutions are often similar to previous years’, and we may be expecting to break them.

Other obstacles to overcome may include our busy schedules, other people’s needs, or the fact that our habits actually provide much-needed stress relief.

The addiction cycle

Understanding this cycle can be a useful way to work out why we struggle to keep to our resolutions, and how we can change to be able to keep them.

We start at the contemplative stage, where we’re thinking about the potential benefits (better health, save money) until we move into the action stage (1 January).

These are followed by the maintenance stage (keeping going), and (too often) the relapse stage where we fall off the wagon and feel guilty, disappointed (or even relieved!) until we eventually close the circle and re-enter the contemplative stage.

Set SMART goals

Setting goals for each stage breaks it down into manageable chunks and can make all the difference.

S stands for Specific, so rather than ‘I want to get some qualifications’, say ‘I want this NVQ’. M stands for Measurable – set smaller goals along the way, so you can monitor your progress, and celebrate each success. A means Achievable – for example, you and/or others think you can do it, while R means it’s Realistic – you have the time, commitment, and can afford the fees. And T means timescale – when should you achieve this goal?

Writing these down (and getting other people’s ideas) means you can also devise strategies to overcome likely problems. Realistically, for example, if you like a cigarette after a meal, plan to do something else when you’ve finished eating.

And if time (or having to go out on a cold, dark night) means you’re likely to skip going to exercise classes, find an alternative.

Plan for your success not for failure!

Falling off the wagon

How we react to this is our key to success. Breaking a resolution makes us feel we’re weak or that we just can’t do it.

But the vital step is to put a single lapse into perspective; it’s just a wobble, not a disaster, and one slice of cake isn’t a sign that we should stop trying to diet!

So instead of beating ourselves up, and/or throwing in the towel, draw a line under any lapses instead, and get yourself back on track.

The important thing is not to give up – we may have to go round the cycle more than once, but this makes us more likely to succeed in the end.

6 Healthy resolutions

1 Aim for a waist size less than half your height to cut your risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and many cancers.

2 Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit, veg, nuts, pulses, oily fish and olive oil, and less meat, saturated/trans fats and sugar.

3 Exercise to get pink and slightly puffed, for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. It’ll boost your mood, too.

4 Get six to eight hours’ sleep every night.

5 Drink alcohol only within the recommended limits (14-21 units a week for women, 21-28 for men). Visit drinkaware.co.uk.

6 If you smoke – stop. Get help and advice about local services from nhs.uk.