Health

How to Sustain Changes in the New Year

Following the decadence and indulgence of Christmas, it is only natural that we should want to wipe the slate clean, start over and look towards forming resolutions that will improve our lives.

A euphoria of optimism washes over us as we delight in the prospects of everything we’ll become in the New Year. The potential is immense as we salivate over the shiny new version of ourselves that is only a few, simple New Year’s resolutions away.

As the dawn of the New Year approaches, we make pledges to banish junk food, quit smoking, go to the gym, embark on a career change or take up a new hobby. There is something absolutely magical about taking control of our lives and wanting to create a better year.

As we hang up a new calendar, we commit to new weight loss regimens; promise to quit bad habits; pledge to make a career change, or plan to implement a grand system for organising life. We’ll be stronger, happier, more social, more career orientated, and better people.

Sounds fantastic right?

Well, there is one teeny, tiny hitch in all of this. For all the great intentions we set, they sometimes don’t come to fruition. By this time of the year, all our resolutions have been kicked to the kerb in favour of old habits. Another year passes and we once again find ourselves, in the exact same position we were the year before.  However, there are a select few of us who are able to keep the foot on the accelerator and make sustainable lasting changes that endure through the month of January and beyond. There’s no secret to their success, just some simple strategies that you too can deploy to make your dreams come true, and make 2018 the best year yet.

Know Your Why

Saying goodbye to deep-rooted habits, and cosying up to new ones can be difficult. This is important to acknowledge and understand. We often take on new habits, believing that just deciding to create them is all it takes to ensure they stick around. Not so my friend.

Those of us who make real changes in our lives, often sit down first and really think about why they want to achieve their goals and what it’ll take to achieve them. They also evaluate which would make them happier: staying the same or making a change.  They’re honest about it. You need to do likewise, and sit down to think about all the things that would happen if you changed your behaviour. What do you stand to lose? Be honest about it.

Next, you need to consider everything you stand to gain by implementing change. For example, how would losing weight help you? You need to know why you want to make these changes and consider whether you genuinely want them. Sure you want a bikini body for summer, but do you want it more than a deep-fried pizza with chips on the side?

Get To Know The New You

This is really effective if you want to make sustainable change in your life. It may seem a little out there but hang with me here. Imagine that you have successfully made and sustained the changes you desire in your life. What would the new you be like? Have a clear image in your mind. What do you look like? What are you wearing? What energy do you give out? What do you have inside you that will help you achieve your goals? What are the talents, determination, intelligence and persistence necessary to succeed that the future you has? Since they are you it is very safe to assume that you have all of these things inside you too.

Visualise yourself chatting to this person. Ask them questions and write the answers down. For example, let’s say you have a strong desire to lose twenty pounds, set up your own business or quit smoking. Ask the improved version of yourself how you got there. What motivated you? What did you do when you failed? How did you resist the temptation to slip back into old habits? How do you feel now that you have achieved your goals? What do you think was really beneficial in getting you there?

By doing this, you will begin to understand the motivation, strategies and skills necessary to achieve your resolutions. Definitely, write them down and use them to form your gameplay. Furthermore, review them often to help sustain your motivation, especially when you hit a rough patch.

Be S.M.A.R.T With Your Goals

You’ve probably heard about S.M.A.R.T goals, and there is a reason for why they’re so popular. It’s not casting a snooty nose down upon your goals, designing them smart or dumb, rather its an acronym that stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. The majority of us are guilty of making unclear goals, such as, ‘ I will start running,’ or ‘I will meet someone new.’

In our haste for making change we can also set goals that are unachievable, for instance, ‘I will lose 60 pounds by April,’ or those that are difficult to actually measure, ‘ I will be a better friend.’

Instead, focus on setting small bite-sized goals that you can action, are measurable and you can track. For example, you could say ‘I will only eat out once a week,’ or ‘I will spend 20 minutes every night reading.’ By setting smaller goals, that pave the way to your bigger goal, will help you monitor your progress, gain momentum and build your confidence, meaning you’re more likely to achieve your overall vision. So be S.M.A.R.T!

Visualise Your Goals

Visualisation might seem like some new-age, hippy bunch of woo-woo, but stay with me. By putting your goals down on paper, or making a vision board, and placing them somewhere where you can see them daily, will help remind you of them and mean you’re more likely to achieve them in the long run. By putting things that remind of the changes you want to make in your everyday view, will help remind you of what you want to achieve and why.

Get Comfortable With The Discomfort

When we make the decision to change, we become so excited and infatuated by the end goal (what we’ll look like when we lose 50 pounds, or how happy we’ll be when we meet our dream partner) that we don’t consider the steps of others journey we’re about to take.

Simply put, change is never easy: it’s uncomfortable, sweaty, gross, hard, annoying, frustrating, difficult, and will make you want to quit.

Don’t!

When you hit a roadblock and things get tough, it means that change is taking place and its time to bear down and push back. Step out of your comfort zone and get comfortable with the discomfort. You are going to fall; you will most certainly fail; you’ll relapse; you’ll want to give up. But you won’t. This is what you’re going to do: you’re going to be kind and loving to yourself, as you would be to a friend, and you’re going to get up and start again. Every fall is apart of your journey and is actually designed to make you stronger. A failure is a learning curve, designed to help you reevaluate your plan adapt it and do better next time. The more you fall, the easier it is to pick yourself back up and keep going.

Reward Yourself – You Deserve It

Change may be difficult at times but it can also be very rewarding. Yes, achieving your overall goal is in itself rewarding, but planning rewards when reaching individual goals will make them more attractive to attain. However, be wary that your rewards don’t counteract what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you lose 5 pounds, don’t eat an entire chocolate cake as a pat on the back, rather treat yourself to a manicure, or buy yourself some new fancy shoes. If you complete a work project, treat yourself and a loved one to the theatre. Be imaginative.

Hopefully, these strategies will help make a significant impact on your journey to making lasting change in your life. You don’t need to wait for the bells of the New Year to implement them. You have 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes and 3153600 seconds this year – start anytime you wish.

Things might get hard, and you will experience some failure and discomfort en route, but go easy on yourself, keep going and never throw in the towel.

About the author

Una Woods

My name is Úna (you can call me Uns) and I am a freelance writer from Armagh, Ireland. A Literature graduate from Queen’s University, Belfast, I love nothing more than sitting down with a cup of tea to write articles that can help others, spanning a range of topics. Happiest when I am learning, writing helps nourish my mind and feed my soul. We live on a gorgeous, vibrant planet, and I believe we should take care of it and each other as best we can.

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