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Using Psychology to maintain your New Year’s Resolutions

This New Year celebration is going to be one like no other. Not only are we all counting down the days to see 2020 come to an end, we are all turning to 2021 with hope that it will bring everyone health and happiness that has been absent for so many during 2020. 

With a New Year fast approaching we start to turn our attention to what New Year’s Resolutions we might put in place. If like most you have reached December of the current year and left your resolutions back in February you are not alone, for many who have the best intentions keeping their resolutions can be challenging, here are a few ideas to help your resolutions stay attainable. 

  1. Tell people about them – for many this will sound too overwhelming to even try, I mean I get it, telling your nearest and dearest that you want to lose some weight or cut down on alcohol can seem too much to handle but hear me out. Telling other people about your goals works similarly to writing down your goals. It makes them real. Telling someone else will also keep you accountable and if you tell the right person they can also help to motivate you.  Finding an accountability partner, someone who either shares your goals or is willing to support you can be helpful on your quest to maintain your resolutions.
  1. Keep them true to who you are- for many some peoples down fall with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are too far removed from what they value and enjoy. When you behavior is aligned with what we value this is where we see our greatest success. Here’s an example.  If you are looking to cut down on alcohol because you value your physical and mental health and also love a cocktail or a beer on a Friday evening, going cold turkey is going to be hard to sustain. Going from drinking everyday or every other day to nothing might be hard. Considerably cutting down and giving yourself a Friday night drink might be one way to sustain your New Year’s Resolution, get improved health outcomes and still have a drink a week with friends. 
  1. I can, instead of I can’t – How many of us fill our day with negative thoughts when we are trying to achieve something like “I can’t eat that”,  “I can’t drink today” “I can’t  go on social media” If our language is negative it can be easy to loose motivation and make the task seem overwhelming and like we have already failed. When we keep our language positive you will find you can motivate yourself even on the hardest days “I can have a drink on Friday”, “I can eat some fruit instead”, “I can go for a walk”.  Give it a try and every time you catch yourself say ‘I can’t’ try and replace it with an ‘I can’ statement. 
  1. Plan for the inevitable temptation – If you have ever tried to stick to a New Year’s Resolution before you will know how quickly your good intentions can be spoiled by temptation. A sleep in instead of a gym session, a drink with friends after work or even reactivating social media. Instead of trying to ignore these lures it is important to plan for them instead.  Have a plan if these temptations do present themselves. A walk after work perhaps or a non-alcoholic drink with your friends and giving your phone to a loved one until your temptation passes.  Studies have shown that planning for temptations makes you more likely to achieve your goals. 
  1. Don’t give up – A missed gym session, a take-away meal, a cigarette or even a cocktail doesn’t have to mean the end of your resolution. While it might feel like you have failed if you do slip up it doesn’t mean that you have to give up entirely. In fact when most people are trying to break a habit it is pretty common that they will have a lapse along the way. It is impossible to be perfect for 365 days a year 24 hours a day.  So rather than punish yourself or give up entirely remember lapse are normal and part of the process of creating new habits and tomorrow you can get back to positive choices.  

Breanna Jayne Sada is a psychologist at LysnLysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.

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