It’s the first full week of January, have you managed to stick to any of your New Year’s Resolutions so far? At this time of year, after the excesses of the festive period, we all tend to come to the conclusion that there a big, sweeping changes we ought to make to our lifestyles for the year to come. But making a big and sudden change in habits is always difficult – it can take around 40 days to form a new daily habit. So what’s the best way to make a positive change to your life, personal or at work, and make sure that the new habit you’ve resolved to form actually sticks?
Small changes are easier than big changes.
New Year’s Resolutions are typically about big changes and often we fail because we try to do too much too quickly. Instead of making one big resolution, break it down into simple and individual changes that you can make one by one.
One common New Year’s Resolution is to eat more healthily a Christmas of over-indulging. But, data from the supermarkets on our shopping habits in January suggest that rather than swapping the bad for the good, we just fill our trolley as we normally do, and then buy extra fruits and vegetables to balance it out!
A better tactic might be to make single substitutions and introduce them gradually, maybe once a week: swapping white bread for brown, or having an apple instead of chocolate biscuits as a mid-afternoon snack, and building them up.
Quantify what you want to achieve.
If you’ve got a broad end goal in your resolution, make it more specific so you know what you’re working towards. Setting so-called SMART goals are a common technique for meeting targets in business. SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Timeframe.
Let’s say that your resolution is to exercise more in 2016. It’s vague so you won’t know if you’re sticking to it or not. So instead of “exercise more”, your resolution could become “go to the gym for 1 hour, twice a week.” It’s specific, as you’ve stated what exercise you’ll be doing; measureable, as you can measure how long you were at the gym for; achievable, as it’s only 2 hours changed to your routine; relevant, as it will help you to exercise more; with a timeframe, as you’ve set yourself a week to do your 2 hours. Using a SMART goal turns your general aim into something you can tick-off your to-do list every week and feel like you’re achieving something and are on your way to your goal.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when you screw up.
New Year’s Resolutions are hard to stick to – they’re typically things we struggle with anyway, which is why we make them – but slip ups are a part of the process. Just because you break a resolution once, doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up about it and it doesn’t mean that it’s all over.
Psychologists now believe that willpower isn’t infinite but rather is depleted and restored over time, meaning we can only resist things for so long. Pouring yourself a large glass of wine after a stressful week at work, in spite of your promise of a dry January, isn’t the end of the world. But it also doesn’t mean that you’ve failed entirely, might as well have the rest of the bottle and revert back to the habits you wanted to change in the first place. Accept that you’ve made a mistake and get straight back on track.
We hope everyone has enjoyed a well-deserved bit of a break over Christmas and New Year! And here’s one final tip – let us know what your New Year’s Resolution is on social media: because you’re much more likely to stick to your resolutions if you write them down for all to see.