Are you one of those people whose New Year resolution to eat more healthily will compel you to eat all the junk food in the house before you start?
It can be discouraging to make the same New Year’s resolution year after year, without seeing much progress. However, researchers say one of the reasons so many of us fail in our resolutions is because we don’t know the science behind getting rid of bad habits and taking up good habits.
Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal says the best resolutions have a “big why” – to find a new relationship, to improve your health, to sort out your finances or to reconnect with a personal passion.
The goal should then be to choose a small goal or action that reflects the big goal, to help you take steps towards it. For example, a small action that has been found to have a major impact on a goal of giving up smoking is to delay the first cigarette of the day by 10 minutes.
Kelly suggests people prepare to decide what resolution would be right for them by:
- listing their favourite memories, triumphs and challenges of the previous year, to help them decide how they want to grow
- making a list of the things they’re grateful for
- writing a letter from their future self, giving compassionate advice to their present self.
She urges people to hold themselves accountable to their resolutions by finding a “support buddy”. Studies have found that simply texting a support buddy when you take an action towards your goal triples the success rate.
Happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin wrote a book, Better Than Before, that examined the 21 strategies she says can be used to make or break habits. She suggests people making New Year’s resolutions should consider six of her most popular strategies:
- Be specific
Resolving to “get fit” isn’t clear enough to be motivating. A more specific resolution – such as working out three times a week or walking to work every day – is much more likely to be successful.
- Monitor your resolution
Tracking your resolution will help you to stay on the right path.
- Identify your tendency
Gretchen says everyone can be divided into four tendencies: upholders, questioners, obligers and rebels. Take the quiz to find out which category you’re in.
- Give yourself external accountability
Tell other people about your resolution, or find a friend, trainer or coach to help you stay accountable to your resolution.
- Treat yourself
Give yourself healthy treats to reward yourself for making progress and to strengthen your resolve.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good
If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow. Shame and guilt won’t help you stick to good habits: people who feel less guilt and show compassion to themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control.
If meeting a partner is your New Year’s resolution for 2016, join FindSomeone’s Bootcamp for Better Dating.
Psychologist John Aiken, our dating and relationship expert, has helped us to develop a four week programme to help you reboot your love life.
Kicking off on 11 January, the bootcamp will help you:
- create a positive dating mindset
- look and feel your best
- remove the obstacles keeping you from dating success
- work towards finding a partner who’s right for you.
To register, simply sign up to FindSomeone and opt in to the Bootcamp for Better Dating.