How do I make good New Year’s Resolutions and how do I keep them?

And more importantly, how do I keep my resolutions in the face of life-changing events out of my control?! 4 AHA! moments 2020 taught me about change, habits and the small things to creating a healthier me.

I bet this time last year you weren’t considering how to stick with your New Year’s resolutions around self-isolating, working from home, washing your hands for the Umpteenth time that day and navigating your world-changing almost overnight?

But this year? Well, we all know that Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2020 will be a bit different from previous years – No handshaking, greater postage delays and Auld Lang Syne over Zoom calls.

But the biggest difference leading up to 2021? How (and why) we make and keep our New Year’s Resolutions.

Why, you ask, should I prioritise my New Year’s Resolutions with everything else that I am juggling after the catastrophic year we have all experienced?  And my answer – Exactly because of the events, and the impacts, of 2020.

A staggering 80% of New Year’s resolutions are about health, wellbeing and personal growth. Just what we need to wrap up in 2020 and help us thrive in 2021.

You probably have heard; many people have reported drastic impacts to their mental and physical health since the pandemic has made itself known to us. And with all the related stress – It’s only natural that we are all getting to the end of this year feeling a little (or a lot) frazzled, feeling short of time and perhaps feeling overwhelmed, tired and, well, just done with 2020.

But it is important to acknowledge that, in any normal year, making and keeping our New Year’s Resolutions can be quite difficult.

While a staggering 93% of people set them, by February, nearly 50% of people’s resolutions are in the proverbial trash. In fact, only 19% of people keep their resolutions over the 2-year mark.

And what is the biggest barrier to achieving these goals? A lack of willpower

So how and why will this year be any different? Well, 2020 has taught us a few things that we may have previously missed, forgotten or failed to connect the dots on. You may say that this year has given us 2020 vision – Pun totally intended.

Willpower

If 2020 has taught us anything, it has forcibly taught us about our willpower (or lack of). I don’t know about you, but this working from home gig has made it a whole lot easier to access the fridge and I have heard myself say too many times, “Well I saved money during the lockdown, so I’m going to eat out tonight!”. And not to mention my dismal exercise routine.

A report released by the American Psychological Association (APA) reveals that our ability to say yes or no has a dramatic impact on our positive life outcomes including high self-esteem, greater financial security, and improved physical and mental health. APA has found that by learning how to better exert self-control, people can enhance their willpower and improve their lives. And luckily for us – APA has advised that willpower can be learnt. Great news, right?

So why do so many of us fail in our resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise?

But is willpower a limited resource?

Does it fatigue like a muscle after too much exertion? According to APA’s What you need to know about willpower: The psychological science of self-control this is the case.

So, how do we make the most of this ‘muscle’ or save our willpower strength for a specific purpose? It was only when I sat and thought about it, did I realise that we automatise so many other aspects of our life, why not our resolutions?

Note for readers: In the following 4 points, I am not going to tell you what your resolutions should be about – that’s on you! Instead, I am going to share possible solutions to help you decide how to make great resolutions around the key areas that people often make their resolutions about – Food, Exercise and provide 2 bonus tips about how you can better keep them.

So, read on my fellow resolvers! And together, let’s shift our perspectives about how we can create great New Year’s Resolutions and change them to lifelong resolutions!

1. Food

I confess I do work out at the gym. And often people consider that meal-prepping is a ‘gym junkie’ thing. But meal planning and meal prepping have substantial positive impacts – 

Diet diversity, weight loss, financial savings and time efficiency.

And how many times do we finish work and think, “I just can’t be bothered making dinner tonight, we will get takeaway.”

Positively, meal planning has other benefits – According to an article in the Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior, it helps with anxiety and depression due to reducing mealtime chaos.

And up to 33% of people choose weight loss or change of eating habits as key factors in their resolution attempts. I don’t know about you, but food choices are a constant battle on my willpower radar. I have found that meal planning and prepping have huge benefits in sustaining my healthy eating choices AND reducing my willpower fatigue because the choice is already made for me and prepared in the fridge. It’s win-win.

2. The If-Then Solution

“If-then planning” is not a new concept. But it isn’t used enough in life, full stop. In this section, I’m going to use it to talk about our often much need but ambitious exercise goals. 

I say ambitious purely because I often hear people state that they are going to go from no regular exercise routine to four days a week. Not specific enough – Where is the accountability?


Or from 2 days a week on Tuesday and Thursday before breakfast, to 4 days a week on Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before breakfast. Too specific – How do you juggle random life events that mean late nights or sick kids or lack of willpower? What if it gets to Friday and you have only done 2 days so far and now your plan is out of whack…

Well…the if-then version of this plan is specific and flexible. It helps to resist the temptation of forgoing my exercise routine and build good habits all in one!

I plan to work out 4 days a week as follows: (I have a home gym so my routine may look slightly different to yours)

  • I work out Monday morning at 6 am, IF I sleep in THEN I work out straight after I get home in the evening.
  • I swim Tuesday morning at 530am, IF I sleep in THEN I work out straight at 6 am, IF I sleep in further THEN I work out after I get home in the evening.
  • I work out Wednesday morning at 6 am, IF I sleep in THEN I work out straight after I get home in the evening.
  • I swim Thursday morning at 530am, IF I sleep in THEN I work out straight after I get home in the evening.
  • And so on all week. I may also add something like, IF I don’t swim at all during the week then I swim at 630am Saturday morning. Or IF I only do 2-3 workouts during the workweek, THEN I do 2 workouts on Sunday etc.

The IF scenario may be different for everyone. IF may mean a sick child. A late night. A scheduled dinner with friends. But the crux of the matter is that people who actively use if-then planning in their lives, across various aspects, are often 2-3 times more successful than those who don’t.

So IF you start using this strategy, THEN you will have more success in your New Year’s Resolutions – Simple ☺ To learn more about how If-Then planning can change human behaviour check out this article.

3. Finding your WHY

This one is pretty simple, so I will keep it short and sweet. Finding your why creates passion and drive into our goal planning and help us maintain our trajectory, even through difficult terrain.

Once you understand your why, you will be able to better influence your behaviour and through experience, learn how to thrive in all resolution pursuits. By creating resolutions on foundations of WHY, you can make intentional choices about your goals and you may be surprised about what you discover. 

You know that annoying child in the back seat who is asking why, Why, Why, WHY?? That’s what you need to do to yourself. Or if you’re brave enough, with a friend. (My advice – take boxing gloves!)

New Year’s Resolution – I want to eat healthier

Why? Because I want to lose weight and feel better

Why? Because my back hurts and I feel tired all the time

Why? Because I want to be able to play games with my grandkids and have quality of life as I get older

I could keep going but the key lesson is that it is important to understand what is driving your goals so that you remain committed and passionate to achieve them.

4. Get Professional or Personal Support 

Lastly, but linking this all together – Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support from friends, family or professionals. Research shows that true group activities have greater effectiveness and sustainable outcomes than individuals acting in silos. And that even one to one connection is more successful than zero support. 

What does this mean? It means we all have to play “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” on repeat, all day long.

What it really means, is that by seeking personal or professional assistance in our goal setting and behaviour change behaviours, we have a greater chance of long-term success.

Try looking for an Integrative Nutrition and Life Coaching (Tara Hawken from Wellness Tree), consider exercise groups that you may enjoy (GEOFIT), join a gym (Anytime Fitness Busselton or Geographe Leisure Center) to build strength within your body with a friend, or see an Osteopath to get a Holistic plan that meets your health goals to overcome injuries  – To name a few but there are plenty more options out there!

So, what are your 2021 New Year’s Resolutions and how do you plan to keep them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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