Have you made a New Year’s resolution to change something in your life; perhaps to reduce weight, get fit, join a gym, commit to an alcohol free January, or to improve your health and wellbeing? You certainly wouldn’t be alone if you have, and neither would you be alone if, by the end of January, you have relapsed or fallen back to your old ways.

Exploring the reasons behind redundant resolutions, it is clear that our old behaviours are comfortable. They form part of our everyday lives and as the weeks pass, we may not notice we have a problem; that glass of wine every night when we get home, the packet of chocolate biscuits that quickly disappears with the cup of tea or coffee, the gym kit gathering dust in a bag.  A variety of excuses pop into our minds to protect us from changing anything; I need a drink to relax when I get home, it’s only a biscuit, I don’t have enough energy or time to go to the gym.  Sound familiar?

“If change is self-motivated rather than imposed we are more likely to make a positive start”

Anthea Whitaker

A lack of confidence in our own ability to sustain change can also be a contributory factor; feelings of low self-esteem, a wish to avoid a sense of failure, all these may hi-jack thoughts about improving our health and wellbeing. If change is self-motivated rather than imposed we are more likely to make a positive start, but what does it really mean to us? If the change we are contemplating comes with a sense of purpose we are more likely to take action and sustain a change in behaviour.

Once we have made a decision to start a change, how can we keep ourselves going and how can we help ourselves at home in order to sustain a change in our lives? Here are some tips to help you stick to those New Years resolutions.

One thing that matters: I suggest making one resolution or change that means something to you. It is easier to change one aspect of our behaviour and the chances of success are greater.

What’s important to you?: Think about what you really want to achieve rather than what everyone else is doing. Dieting or joining a gym may be ‘on trend,’ but is this what you want? Perhaps a long term tweak such as using the stairs at work, parking the car at the furthest point away from the supermarket entrance may be achievable on an everyday basis.

Don’t cover old ground: If you have previously tried to diet or do more exercise and you haven’t succeeded, try something else. Re-visiting old resolutions that haven’t worked out may lead to feelings of disappointment or frustration before you even begin.

Make it bitesize: Can your goal be broken down into smaller steps along the way? This can help us measure success, keep our focus on the end goal and give us a sense of progress.

Nurture your motivation: Make a list of what your resolution means to you or how achieving it will help you, record your plans and progress made. Keeping this at hand as a reminder can be a useful tool.

Don’t give up at the first slip: Expect to relapse into your old patterns of behaviour now and again. We can learn from this and be stronger from it. Next time the setback maybe less devastating and the relapse shorter.

At whatever stage we are in making a change to our old behaviours it is worth contemplating what we wish to try and achieve, make some preparations prior to taking action, take action, try to maintain that and when we do relapse learn from it and start again.