So many of us start the year optimistically, with admirable goals to eat, live and exercise better. But unfortunately, many people have given up New Year’s Resolutions by mid-February. In fact, one study showed only 19% of participants were able to keep their pledges for two years.

Keeping New Year’s Resolutions is tough but rethinking your goals and your plans to achieve them could vastly affect accomplishing your Resolutions. 

Start small

Image by ninafirsova via Canva Pro

Each January (or Veganuary), many hopefuls set the noble goal of giving up meat and dairy products. However, becoming vegan or vegetarian after years of eating meat is somewhat daunting. Trying a couple of ‘vegan days’ per week, on the other hand, may be a more achievable step towards your goal.

Failing a resolution because it is overly ambitious is likely to leave you feeling disheartened and give up totally. Scientists have even given it a name: the “what the hell effect.” For example, imagine you pledge to give up eating sugar. Then, one night, you give in to temptation and eat some chocolate. Because you’ve ‘failed’, you think ‘what the hell’ and binge on ice cream, doughnuts and cookies. After that, your early-to-bed plans went out the window because “what the hell,” you’d already failed.

Image by Tinnakorn Jorruang via Getty Images Pro

To avoid this effect, try beginning with more achievable goals – such as limiting yourself to one sugary snack per day. Furthermore, researchers suggest that showing self-forgiveness when you slip up can help you stay on track. Disarming the guilt prevents a spiral of shame and self-pity, which will ultimately set you back on your Resolutions.

Specific goals

Image by Olga Stock via Canva Pro

Having more specific goals for the new year can make them much more sustainable. For example, rather than vowing to simply ‘lose weight’, set a number of pounds to shed by a specific date. 

If you’re aiming to exercise more, try setting a target of twenty minutes per day. The better you can measure your goal, the more likely you will achieve it.  

Plan, plan, plan!

Image by Tatomm via Getty Images Pro

Preparation is essential to make sure your New Years’ Resolution sticks. This is particularly important if you’re trying to change your eating habits; spend some time scheduling your meal plan or even preparing food in advance. This will help prevent you ‘falling off the wagon’ once mealtimes come or a craving hits.

Scientists investigating major behavioural change have found that thinking about why you want to keep your resolution can help keep you on track. Perhaps you want to lose weight to protect your health or stop smoking to improve your fitness. Whatever it is, meditating on how your goals will benefit your life can be a massive motivator for achieving your goals. 

Make it fun

Image by Jupiterimages via Photo Images

A resolution you enjoy is a resolution you can stick to. Separating major tasks into minor challenges mean you and your family can celebrate your little wins along the way.

Research suggests that enjoying working out or studying means you can stick to pledges for much longer. In the end, persistence is what makes a resolution successful.

Another way to make your New Years Resolution more fun is to pair it with a reward. For example, if you’re trying to be more productive, tell yourself you can only have your favourite coffee when you’re working. Or, if you want to use your treadmill more, only allow yourself to watch your favourite TV shows when you’re working out. Research shows that this ‘temptation bundling’ can help you keep your New Years Resolution.

Medical disclaimer

You must not rely on the information on this blog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or therapist. If you have any specific concerns about your mental or physical health, you should consult your doctor and you should not delay seeking medical advice, or treatment for your mental health, because of the information on this blog.