New Year is a popular time to make resolutions, and you may be surprised to know that they can work! Even though just under 50% of people say that they have successfully kept their New Years’ resolutions for at least a year, the number of people who succeed at keeping a resolution at a random date is less than 10%. This improved success rate during the New Year has been attributed to the “fresh start effect” which is the positive effect that having a temporal landmark has on people forming new habits and meeting goals.
So, what is the secret to keeping a resolution? Setting a SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound) goal is key! Goals that are realistic, and that can be tracked against a set time are more likely to be met. For example, instead of ‘losing weight’, setting 2 kilos a month is a much SMARTer goal.
Here are more top tips on how to keep resolutions:
1. Plan ahead – Forming new habits and breaking old ones takes time, effort, and a lot of discipline. Plan when you will act on your resolution, how often, and all the details so that you are less likely to break it. Also, plan for temptations, such as healthy snacks when you’re peckish if you’re trying to lose weight, a less intense at home workout if you don’t feel like going to the gym or rescheduling instead of cancelling plans altogether.
2. Track your progress and reward yourself - As you set measurable, specific goals you will be able to see if you are meeting them. Reward yourself when you do meet your goals. Go to a movie, do something fun with friends, treat yourself to a gift.
If you’re consistently failing to meet your goals, consider why and what is happening. Are your goals realistic enough? Do you have certain triggers or obstacles that you need to identify and overcome? Tracking your progress can help you adjust your milestones and sustain yourself!
3. Find a community – Telling your friends and family about your goals is a good way to hold yourself accountable. You can also find a group of people either online or in person to help you achieve your goals. You could join a book club if your objective is to read more, an Alcoholics Anonymous if you want to quit drinking, a hiking club if you want to work out more. In this day and age, it is becoming easier to get connected to a particular community sharing the same values and goals.
4. Be kind to yourself – Don’t beat yourself up when you slip up. It’s hard to change your lifestyle. Take each day as it comes and realise that for change to be permanent, taking a misstep from time to time isn’t going to mean you will fail in the long run! Putting unnecessary pressure on yourself is going to be counterproductive.
5. Get knocked down? Then get up again! – Each day is a new day. Just because you are failing to meet goals by February it doesn’t mean you can’t recommit and retry in March. Based on studies it takes anywhere between 18 to 254 days to form a habit. Don’t get bogged down by one bad day.
Now you have the tools to keep your resolution it is time to choose one or two resolutions for the year. Have you decided what your New Year’s Resolution for 2023 will be? Here is a list of the most common and popular resolutions people have made:
1. Lose weight – Who doesn’t want a toned tummy? Losing weight is many people’s priority especially after turning 30! With how busy people get it can be hard to take the time to plan and cook healthy meals and take time to work out. Schedule meal planning and workouts in your weekly calendar. Start easy, with healthy substitutions such as yogurt for sour cream in salad dressing, adding salad or grilled vegetables, replace refined carbs with brown bread and brown rice. Anticipate weak days, when you don’t have food ready choose healthy takeaway like sushi, naked burrito bowls, roast instead of fried chicken. Have healthy snacks ready to go (veggie sticks with hummus, nut and dried fruit mix, small bars of dark chocolate with no sugar) to avoid binging on unhealthy snacks.
2. Exercise more – Getting into shape, feeling strong, having more energy, sleeping better: we know that the benefits of getting more exercise are plenty! Finding the time and motivation is difficult though. If a gym membership is out of your current budget or time restraints, opt for making exercise part of your day-to-day life. Bike to work or get off a train stop earlier to add a walk to your daily commute. Go jogging when you take the dog out for a walk. Take the stairs instead of the lift!
If you do have time to add exercise into your weekly regimen, choose something you will enjoy as you are more likely to stick to it, and start slow. Maybe go for yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, rock-climbing, soccer, once or twice a week. Then when you’re finding that you want to push yourself harder, add more sessions. Even using an app or a free workout on YouTube for 10 minutes here and there will become so appealing that you will add longer or more sessions to your week.
When you have a gym membership it is easy to stop going. Get a gym buddy, put on your favourite workout music, prepare your workout outfit the day before to keep your motivation high.
3. Get organised - Organising your life will help you free up time for many things and is also a form of self-care that will improve your home environment and boost your mental health. Use journals and planners to plan your week and month: meal plans, the social calendar, work and self-improvement sessions, kids’ appointments, and activities. Schedule a monthly or fortnightly declutter of your home and office. Sort out your finances, and documents and put all your due dates on your calendar or planner.
4. Spend more time with friends and family – With everything on your plate it is easy to neglect your loved ones. Schedule fun, easy-going activities with friends and family like going to cafes, to the beach, for a walk in your local neighbourhood or the new restaurant that just popped up. If that sounds too hard to plan, just give your loved ones a call and go from there. Scheduling time with friends and family may feel forced and unnatural but if you don’t do it, it won’t happen.
5. Drink less alcohol – Finding a community is incredibly helpful for this as drinking tends to be a highly social activity. Find people you can do healthy things with. Switch out your favourite pub or bar with exploring a new restaurant or suburb with friends. Bring non-alcoholic beers or cocktails to parties.
6. Quit smoking – Again, finding a support group will be helpful for this. Many people vouch for certain books that helped them quit cold turkey, nicotine patches, and reducing triggers like coffee or going to bars. Do your research and plan to try different methods. On average, people take 8-12 attempts before they quit smoking, so this is definitely one for multiple tries and not being too hard on yourself.
7. Read more – As life gets more hectic and our phones take over our free time, reading books, journals and newspapers is becoming a lost pastime. Start easy, with one book a month. Write up a list of books or journals you’ve been wanting to read. If you like using a screen, consider a kindle, or sign up for a subscription to your favourite newspapers. Build it into your weekly routine by bringing your book on your commute, listening to audiobooks in your car, or reading a chapter before bed.
8. Travel more – Plan how many places you can go to in the year to come. Apply for leave early or plan time before starting a new job. Set a detailed budget with set numbers for food and drink, entertainment, transport and so forth. Research budget friendly options like local instead of international travel, using trains and buses instead of flights. If you prefer freestyling while you travel look into a campervan rental or backpacking.
9. Save more, spend less – getting on top of your finances can help you save for a house, reduce your credit card debt, or simply make you feel good to have a back up fund in case anything happens. Firstly, make a budget, put all your earnings, income, and expenditure in a spreadsheet. Keep track of expenses, especially areas you can cap such as shopping, eating out, even groceries. When you find the big-ticket items, you can then decide how you will reduce spending in each area such as meal planning around what is on discount in the supermarket, going out less and looking up activities you can do at home such as at home dates or learning to cook new dishes.
10. Learn a new skill or hobby – Learning something new is not only fulfilling, but it can also be a fantastic form of self-care. Enrol in a starter course to see if the skill or hobby could be your passion. Go to hobby stores and ask the shop assistants for help. Often, they will not only suggest what you should buy to start off with but also give you advice how to go about your first project or first attempt at a skill.