January is probably most famous for New Year resolutions. It is also famous for something else: the complete failure of New Year resolutions before the end of the month.
No matter whether your New Year resolution is to lose weight, keep date night with your spouse sacred or actually take a lunch hour, here are our 6 ways to help keep your resolutions.
1. Willpower is like a muscle so exercise it
How often do we say ‘he/she has such great willpower’ or ‘I wish I had more willpower’? A lot. But willpower is not a static thing that we are either blessed with lots or little of. Like a muscle, it can increase with training.
You would not go from zero exercise today to running a half marathon tomorrow so do the same with willpower. In the build-up to starting your New Year resolution (there is no law that says it has to start on January 1st by the way!) try some smaller, willpower ‘gym sessions’.
Ahead of a healthy eating resolution try to ditch the chocolate biscuit with your morning cup of tea for 2 days, then 4, then a week. Or get outside and walk for 10 minutes each day as you build up to a ‘get fit’ New Year resolution.
2. Be specific about your New Year resolution
An important factor in sticking to your New Year resolution is to be specific about it. Something too general or non-specific can actually be demotivating. Or worse give you an easy way out that you will regret almost immediately.
For example swap ‘I want to spend more time with my partner’ for ‘I want to set aside 2 Wednesdays a month for a date night with my partner’. The specifics give you something detailed to aim for, make the resolution time-limited and gives you a clear idea of what you need to do to achieve it (pick 2 Wednesdays a month and ring-fence them from work, housework, football, running or a night out with the girls/boys).
3. Make only one change at a time
It can be tempting to set yourself a few New Year resolutions. Social media does not help as we are bombarded with images of people who have lost weight and got fitter, and spent more time with family and less time at work.
The end result is we feel inadequate for not achieving any of these things and not having more than one resolution.
Decide what your top priority is and focus on that alone. Placing your efforts in one area will reap greater rewards.
4. Break your New Year resolution in to manageable chunks
If you are part of a couple that feels like they rarely spent more than a minute together last year, a resolution to spend an hour together each night sounds like a great idea. But if you were that busy last year, this oversized resolution will likely fail after a month or so leaving both of you feeling despondent. Breaking it down into manageable parts would be a much more fruitful approach.
At first, aim to carve out 10 minutes a day to talk while phones, TVs, tablets and other distractions are switched off and preferably not even in the room with you. Gradually over time increase the amount of time and/or frequency by a realistic amount.
Eventually, the time set aside will become habitual and the overall target of spending more time together will be achieved.
5. If you can’t face doing it all, do something
There will be days when trying to keep the resolution to take an hour for lunch at work or exercise for 20 minutes will feel like a personal Mount Everest. Instead of giving in and beating yourself up about it, do something.
An early-morning 20-minute jog might be out of the question today, so do 10 minutes instead. If you genuinely cannot take your lunch hour, take at least 20 minutes away from your desk.
Doing something is better than nothing. With something rather than nothing achieved you will be in a better, more positive frame of mind to crack on with your New Year resolution again tomorrow.
6. Get a resolution buddy
Even with a will power ‘muscle’ that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush, we all have days when the motivation needle is on empty. This is when having a resolution ‘buddy’ can help.
Pairing up with a friend or colleague on your quest is a great option. You can boost one another on difficult days and the personal commitment made to each other means you are less likely to skip whatever you are doing. It will be harder to stay in bed for that 6 am run if you know your friend is waiting outside for you!
Is keeping a New Year resolution the least of your worries this January?
The Spark provides counselling to help individuals, couples and families work through the challenging issues they are facing in life. No matter whether you are looking for stress counselling, help with anxiety or marriage counselling you can access help from one of our 13 counselling centres around Scotland.