Need a helping hand in making sure your resolutions turn into lifelong habits? We asked a panel of wellness, fitness and finance experts for their top tips...
If you’re finding that your good intentions at the beginning of the year have fallen by the wayside, we’re here to offer you a helping hand in seeing your goals through to fruition. Whether your aim was to quit smoking, lose weight, eat more healthily, manage your money better or to leave work on time, we’ve asked a panel of pros for their words of wisdom to ensure your resolutions last throughout the year and beyond.
So if you’ve slipped up, don’t be so hard on yourself - January is a hard month to get through! Here’s how to get back on the wagon should you have fallen off for five of the most common New Year’s resolutions.
1. To eat more healthily
Health, beauty and nutrition consultant Karen Cummings-Palmer says: It's easy to fall off the healthy living wagon when the days are cold and short. I say, forget about the wagon, it's an unreliable vehicle - instead take small tangible steps to change the habits of a lifetime for a lifetime.
You don't need to achieve the perfect body this month, you need to achieve your perfect body and maintain it this year. Stop thinking of food as friend or foe, instead think of it as delicious nutrition - it will help you make choices that support you. Notice how your body feels when you drink enough water, eat plenty of green living foods and avoid refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Re-define comfort - feeling vital and energised, having a clear glowing complexion and sleeping well is so much sweeter than sugar!
2. To leave work on time
Executive and Career Coach Anna Percy-Davis says: If you are finding this resolution starting to slip, you need to step back and really look at why you have such a resolution. A few things to consider:
- Be more specific - what are you leaving work on time to do? If it is a vague sense that you want a better work/life balance, then that can easily slip away. But if you are leaving work to go to the gym/do homework with your children/spend time with friends you never get round to seeing, then you are creating a stronger reason to leave.
- Keep looking for perspective. Sometimes we stay in the office because what we are doing feels incredibly important. I am sure you work is important, but is it a life or death situation? Work out at the beginning of the day what is important and really zone in on that - if you can, focus on great work, avoid bad work and don't let good work gobble all your time.
- Finally believe in yourself enough to feel you have done enough. Often we fall into the trap of staying in the office because we don't believe we have done enough or contributed enough. If you want to leave the office on time and have a healthy work/life balance, you have to believe you are good enough and your work is good enough.
3. To lose weight and get fit
Personal trainer Christina Howells says: If you’re not passionate about the goals you set, then it’s little wonder if you drop off. If it’s weight loss, revisit the reasons for doing this - it’s important to be true to your authentic self, your values and what is important to you. Make a list of the positive benefits you want to see and feel by achieving each of your goals. Now, look at the possible barriers to achieving them. This is not just about the physical things that can get in the way such as work, but also about your belief system, your reactions to stress and how you feel about yourself.
Once you have identified your barriers, make a plan to adjust your life to create your new reality. Address the internal obstacles, life will always get in the way where goals are concerned and we can adjust for that but if we don’t believe we can achieve our goal then we are likely to drop out fast. One way to help is to actually visualise yourself already achieving your goal and writing them down in the present tense, i.e. I have lost 5 kilos in five months. I did this by eating healthy, quitting sugar and walking to work every morning. All you’re doing is setting your mindset in the positive rather than the negative.
Write your story, take your positive list of goals as if you already have them and write how your life will be different in 6 months’ time having these goals. Put your story somewhere safe and maybe on display. You can come back to it at any time and make small adjustments, but remember to stay in the positive as this is your reality.
Did you break your goal down into manageable chunks and plan your journey? If your goal is to lose 10 kilos in four months, then break this down into 2-3 kilos a month and reward yourself. If you don’t make your target then simply re-evaluate and make a new monthly target.
Revisit your goals. Be specific with what you want but also make sure they are realistic to your lifestyle and your wants rather than what you feel pressured to do. Often we make goals because we think we should be skinnier, or exercising more and start some radical diet plan or join every exercise class going only to feel disheartened when we are no longer enjoying ourselves.
When you get knocked off track rather than get disheartened, ask yourself what set you off track and how you can change this. Explore the reasons and consider how you can plan for these obstacles or negative beliefs and reset yourself on track – don’t be beaten because you think you can’t when you can, you just need to take charge and turn the negatives into positives.
On the first day of every month, do a quick check-in. Ask yourself where you are at in relation to your goals. How did you do in the previous month? Then make adjustments to set yourself up for better success.
4. To be more in control of my finances
Author and finance expert Heather McGregor says: ‘Start small. Open a word document or buy a notebook and spend an hour writing down everything you spend money on. Don’t worry about the take-out coffees right now, just list the big things – mortgage, electricity/gas, mobile, broadband, car insurance and so on. Then challenge yourself to review these things one per week, and see if you can get them cheaper.’
If you’re finding that your food shop is taking a toll on your bank balance, follow Heather’s sage advice in the below extract from her book, Mrs Moneypenny’s Financial Advice for Independent Women , £16.99 (one of our favourite self-help books for monitoring our money).
Saving money takes time. To feed your household for less, do a two-week menu plan, draw up a shopping list to support it and then stick to the list.
Online supermarket shopping is good for this, because it is not as easy to be tempted with random purchases when you are on the internet. You focus on buying what you need, rather than what you fancy, and are less likely to be sucked in by two-for-one offers - or, worse, three-for-two offers - on items you won’t get through. You waste less food and therefore less money.
Oh, and never go food shopping when you’re hungry.
Challenge yourself to set a target and stick to it. This will make the whole thing more fun. And it will be more satisfying when you achieve it!
Can you make soups, sauces and stews which can be used for several meals? Can you take packed lunches to work? Can you buy cheap punnets towards the end of the day on market stalls?
Alternatively, you may be inspired by one couple’s commitment to buy food only from local, small shops and markets (at www.ayearwithoutsupermarkets.com ). This has - possibly counter-intuitively - saved them money, because they have only bought what they want and haven’t been sucked into buying endless offers.
5. To quit smoking
The Modern Day Wizard, Andrew Wallas says: Whenever we attempt to change any behaviour, whether stopping smoking or drinking or reducing negative thinking, the pattern we develop is inevitably an initial period of strong resolution with immediate results followed by a return to the default setting. When we slip back, the most important aspect is to not judge ourselves harshly. We all too often speak to ourselves with statements like “You have failed again,” “You never last at anything” and similar negative judgements. Whereas, the truth is that if we have managed 25 days or so with the new behaviour and 4 or 5 days with the old behaviour, this represents a massive improvement on the past history.
So, instead of beating up on ourselves, we need to recognise that we have made significant progress and renew our enthusiasm to start the cycle of new behaviour again. Even if this pattern repeats itself time and time again, the cumulative number of days of new behaviour far outweighs the days of slipping back to the old behaviour. Even if over 60 days we have managed 30 days of not smoking and 30 days of smoking, this is a major improvement.
Frequently, when we initiate a move to a healthier behaviour, there is a backlash as if there is an internal little demon that says “Oh no you don’t.” Once again, count every day of non-smoking or changed behaviour as progress.
A useful tool is to know that we can start our day as many times over as we want. So for example, if we get to 11:00 am having been grumpy and obnoxious, we can simply agree with ourselves that we start our day again from scratch and create a different better day. We can do this many times over until we create the desired change. In exactly the same way, we can start over with our new resolution time and time again until the new intention remains strong.
The key to this is “intention.” Intention is unrecognised and underestimated. Nothing is created without intention. We cannot build a house, fly to America, lose weight or have a baby without intention. Sometimes our intention is strong and at other times our intention is weak. It cannot forever remain strong so simply accept that this will be the case and maximise the times of strong intention and minimise the times of weak intention.
Judging ourselves harshly never supports any change. Understanding and compassion supports changed behaviour.
There is always a part of us that wants to change, e.g. giving up smoking and a part of us that does not want to change, e.g. carry on smoking. Accept this and allow the former to grow and expand and the latter to diminish.
How are your resolutions going? Let us know in the comments