Do you make a resolution at new year, try to stick to it but find you've gone back to your old ways after just a few weeks? If so, here are some tips to make it easier for you to keep this year's resolution.
Analyse the behaviour you want to change.
- What is your current behaviour giving you?
- Do you still need what it gives you?
- Can you get that from anything else?
- Is there any part of it that is worth keeping?
- Can you modify your current behaviour so you keep the benefits whilst still getting rid of the bad parts?
One of the questions that I find really challenges smokers is “what do you enjoy about smoking?” When they analyse it they often find that it’s nothing to do with the actual cigarette or nicotine, it’s usually the 5 minutes’ escape it gives them or a feeling of relaxation or they feel it’s something they’re doing for themselves.
If they can satisfy those feelings in some other way then the physical act of smoking becomes redundant. Once you’ve got rid of the emotional need, most people then find it easier to stop because they don’t feel deprived. In fact the only things they are missing out on are the cost, the smell, the horrible taste in the mouth first thing in the morning and the increasing restrictions on where they can smoke.
What is the driving force behind your resolution?
Why do you want to make this change in your life? People are motivated either by being drawn towards something or by moving away from something.Which motivates you most?
For instance, if you want to lose weight then your motivation could come from the desire to look good on the beach in the summer or it could be a fear of having to go out and buy new clothes because your old ones don’t fit.
If you want to stop smoking it could be the fear of ill health that’s important or it could be the desire to buy something with the money you’ll save.
Visualise your new behaviour.
Make it real to yourself so you know that you do want it and it feels familiar. Write it down, tell someone about it.
For instance, think what it will feel like to run for the bus without getting out of breath or how it will feel to have more money to spend when you have your new job. If you just have a vague idea with no plan it's like setting off for a trip abroad without a map. You may get there but probably not by the easiest route and you could end up totally lost.
You might also want to visualise the smaller waistline in those clothes that you haven't been able to fit into for some months. Maybe you can hear all the compliments that people are making about you next time you go out. And don't forget that feeling of satisfaction you'll get a year later when you realise that you'll have to pick another resolution this time, because you've actually kept the one from last year.
Enlist other people's help
- Join a forum where other people are following the same goal.
- Ask a friend to support you
- Join a website that sends you reminder emails of your goal
Having the support of other people can be a helpful motivator. In a forum you can post things that have been helpful to you and see what has been helpful to others. Constantly being reminded of the positive aspects of your resolution by email or by a friend will help you to feel more in touch with them.
Plan the practical issues
Do you need to do anything to make your resolution work? When are you going to fit the 30 minutes a day exercise into your busy schedule? What will you do next time you go out to eat and you get pressurised into having a dessert? When will you make your healthy packed lunch? What will you say and do if your “friend” offers you a cigarette? Go through all the possible scenarios in your mind beforehand so that you already have a plan in mind.
Would you be more likely to succeed if you take things more slowly?
Your new year's resolution might seem a bit daunting. So, would it be easier if you took things one step at a time?
Rather than stopping smoking completely, why not reduce the amount you smoke and get used to that first. If cutting out chocolate and alcohol, going out jogging every day and taking a healthy packed lunch to work seems to much of a punishment then do one of them the first week, get used to it and then add another one. But set a time limit for each one or you are likely to always be putting it off until tomorrow.
Don't give up if you slip.
If you don’t manage to stick with your resolution don’t abandon it immediately. Think about the reason. Did someone offer you a lovely piece of chocolate cake and you thought it would be rude to refuse? Was your week too busy for you to fit in regular exercise? Don't let one small slip stop you.
Think about what you have achieved. Remember all the unhealthy food you haven’t been eating and the days you did make it to the gym. Often people wipe out all the positive memories with one negative event. One client told me that her weight loss attempt had been going terribly. It turned out that she had eaten a large slice of cake to cheer herself up because she had been burgled, which had completely overshadowed the fact that she no longer went back for a second helping, she’d regularly turned down puddings and had reduced the amount of cheese she ate.
To summarise, if you are making a resolution this new year:
- Make sure it’s something you want and understand why.
- Then make it easy for yourself by planning how you will behave in different situations and what you will do if things don’t go according to plan.
- Finally, focus on the benefits to you and visualise yourself reaping the rewards of better health, lifestyle or job, focus on the improvement that has made and how great that makes you feel.