Opinion: Resolute on resolutions

Amanda Craven.
Amanda Craven.

I’m stopping smoking at New Year, I’m going to cut down drinking after Christmas, I’m starting a new diet in January… Any of these statements sound familiar?

January is the month of good intentions to live more healthily, to be a better person, the month we most associate with a fresh start. Many readers will have endeavoured to stop doing something that’s harming us or to start doing something that’s good for our health (or finances) and made it a New Year Resolution at some point in their lives.

Many resolutions, including stopping smoking, are quickly broken.

Many resolutions, including stopping smoking, are quickly broken.

Each year around one in three adults in the UK resolve to lose weight and one fifth will set out to exercise and improve fitness.

Sadly, around 80 per cent of us will have fallen by the wayside even before the month of January is out and, according to a survey published in The Independent last year, only three per cent of us are likely to see our resolve hold until the end of the year. So why do we seem to be doomed to failure? Is there anything we can do to increase our chance of success?

Firstly, we need to ensure our goal is achievable and realistic, and that the timing is right. Yes, it’s great to think of a new year as a new start, but if you know for example that you will have exams or a particularly stressful workload in January you could plan to begin your resolution in February and use January to gently prepare for the change without overloading the pressure on yourself.

Secondly, remember that your resolution is a JOURNEY, not an event. If you do slip up and deviate from the road of good intentions, see if you can learn anything from the experience and start again the next day. Be kind to yourself, and offer yourself the same encouragement you would to your best friend.

Thirdly, don’t forget to reward yourself (appropriately!) for your achievements and be mindful of what you’re gaining (better health, for example) rather than focusing on what you might be ‘giving up’ or ‘losing’.

Twenty-eight is a magic number for those wishing to change habits of any sort – after 28 days new habits become firmly entrenched in our mind and are easier to keep going. That doesn’t mean to say it will plain sailing, but your resolution will by now be well established and easier to stick to.

If you are still struggling, however, you may need to work more deeply on what’s behind the triggers for your unwanted habit or what’s stopping you from moving forward. A professional clinical hypnotherapist can work with you (often in just three sessions) to explore these triggers or mental blocks and neutralise them so you can get on and become the person you want to be.

• Amanda Craven is a registered, accredited clinical hypnotherapist.