This is the time of year when we, as humans, are most driven to make changes to our lives – to become a better us. And there’s a common theme that runs through most resolutions – personal improvement. Last year, the top three resolutions were (in order) – lose weight, get fitter and eat more healthily. Let’s face it, most of us could probably do with a bit of work on those three areas.
How does the UK measure up?
In the US research shows that only 8% of people manage to stick to their new year’s resolutions. In the UK, we appear to be slightly more determined, with 37% claiming to have achieved their aims. (So we’re either better focused, or better at lying.)
Don’t waste your time (or money)
In the UK, we’re a nation that loves the idea of going to the gym. We seem to love actually going there slightly less. Over 12% of new gym memberships start in January, and a high proportion of gym income is from members who sign up to lengthy contracts and then attend very irregularly. The new model of gym, that allows you to attend without signing a lengthy contract, is making a difference.
How to stick to your resolutions
Experts recommend making small changes, in a progressive manner. If you try to change too much, too quickly you’re setting yourself up to fail. And make sure you understand the nature of your behaviour before you try to change it. Most things we’re trying to change require an actual behavioural change, so that we’re comfortable with the new norm and aren’t constantly hankering after what we used to have.
Make one change at a time
We all have a finite amount of willpower. So, trying to make too many changes at once is likely to mean that we succeed at none of them. Losing weight, for example, isn’t just about eating less. To make a success of it, you need to shop and cook differently, watch what sort of social event you attend and even start trying to exercise more. A lot of what we want to change requires actual behaviour changes, not just will power. So be fair to yourself and have realistic targets.
Break them down into manageable tasks
By giving yourself smaller goals each week you’re more likely to stick to your resolution. Again, this relies on changing behaviours. So rather than just say you want to lose 8 pounds, aim to up your gym attendance, walk the stairs rather than taking the escalator or take a healthy packed lunch to work every day.
Reward yourself to keep your spirits up. We don’t mean have a cake if you’ve managed to eat well for a few days. We mean watch a funny film, or go to an art gallery or do whatever it is that makes you happy. Never underestimate how powerful a positive mental attitude can be.
Make resolutions you can stick to
Don’t go for it 100% – I’m never going to eat a cake, I’m never using my credit card again – it means you’re setting yourself up to fail. Try thinking of a more practical rule – perhaps you’ll only have a fancy desert when you’re in a nice restaurant.
Use visual stimuli
Our primitive cravings centre is very susceptible to visual stimulation. So put a picture of you looking slim on the fridge door, or have a picture of your ideal holiday destination next to your credit cards in your wallet. It seems simple. But, hey, human beings are simple.
Give yourself a fighting chance
When you feel yourself being tempted, remove yourself from the temptation. Stress, hunger and being tired can have a huge impact on how successful you are. So rest and eat (something healthy!) and then face the challenge again.
Remember you’ve achieved a lot so far
Remind yourself of all the amazing things you have achieved. And remember the words of Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
One of a human being’s most useful assets is the capacity to keep trying to achieve something. So even if you hit a bump in the road, get back up and keep on trying.
Bust the dust and clutter in January
If decluttering is one of your new year’s resolutions, give us a call or pop in. A tidy house can help focus your mind and help you achieve your other ambitions.