The beginning of the year is a popular time to evaluate our lives and make plans for the coming year. Often this leads to New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, most resolutions, while well-intentioned, are not successful. This makes people feel discouraged about making changes in their personal lives. Here are ways to keep your resolutions on track and make positive changes.
Don’t Go It Alone
The tendency is to create a personal list of New Year’s resolutions. That often leads to us trying to achieve our resolutions by ourselves, which can lessen our likelihood of success. Studies have shown that exercising and other common goals are less likely to succeed if they are done in isolation or without any support structure. Working out with a friend, however, is a great motivator, keeps you engaged in the activity, and will hopefully help make it more fun, too.
Indeed, there are many types of resolutions that can only be successful with help. From plans to renovate the house to a resolution to find a new job, often we need experienced assistance. Such resolutions and a desire to improve certain areas of our lives, however, are often only a small part of what we need to address.
If you or someone you know is suffering from stress, some form of anxiety, or depression, you may find that an attempt to deal with these issues will prove far more beneficial and far-reaching than any typical New Year’s resolution. Working with a psychologist can help you identify underlying patterns of behaviour, and negative thoughts and feelings. Then you can begin to focus on establishing more positive, helpful responses to the difficulties that you experience.
Set Manageable Goals
It can be tempting to write out a long list of New Year’s resolutions. While self-improvement is an admirable goal, setting too many resolutions or ones that are too difficult, will only make individual goals harder to realise. It is better to pick one or two objectives than to try for too many. The beginning of the year can be a stressful time, in of itself. Many people feel a bit down following the excitement of the festive season. Short winter days and cold weather can create their own kind of stresses and, for some people, the lack of sunlight can lead to them feeling lethargic and negative. So where you do make goals for yourself, make them few, specific, realistic – and with a clear pathway to achieving them.
Focus on Your Long-Term Goals
When it comes to resolutions, we tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality. One cigarette will “ruin” our New Year’s resolution to stop smoking and one missed day at the gym can make us feel like our plan to get fit has come to an end. It is important to realise that changes to our behaviour take time and we’re likely to miss a few minor targets or milestones along the way. Rather than expecting everything to go smoothly, it’s better to anticipate a few steps backwards once in a while, and to remember that it’s the big picture that counts.
Appreciate Your Achievements
Give yourself credit for your successes, even if you haven’t met all your targets. If you don’t meet your goal to eat healthy food at every meal, know that substituting your typical food for healthier dishes a few times a month is still important progress and represents an improvement. This means you have made positive change in your patterns of behaviour and it is important to acknowledge this progress. It can be too easy to focus on resolutions you may not have completely achieved, rather than taking the time to appreciate all the advancements you’ve made.