Want to quit smoking, eat more healthily or take up running? Here’s how! Charlotte Haigh MacNeil
You start the new year full of good intentions to stick to yourresolutions. You will get on top of your debts/write that novel/ learn to knit. You picture yourselfmonths’ time, free of bad habitspounds lighter, glowing with vitalityforward to February, though, and you’ve only made it to the gym three times – andall in the first week of January. It’s too hard to live on vegetable juice when the weather’s cold, and who can get throughthe long, dark days without a slice of cake/glass of wine/spot of retail therapy?Before you know it, you’re back in your usual routine. If this is the way your new year’s resolutions typically go, here are some strategies to help you stick to your goals this year.
If you’ve never run before, deciding you’re going to aim for a marathon is over-ambitious. While it’s fine to hold thatas a long-term goal, you need to start with a more realistic, specific aim – for example, to build up to a 5K by the end of February. Once you’ve achieved that, you can then set a new goal.
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MAKE A PLAN
Think about how you’re going to achieve your resolution. If your goal is to run 5K, you could download an app to help you train, such as Get Running (Couch to 5K) (£1.99). Put exercise sessions in the diaryeach week, rather than assuming you’ll fit them in. Just deciding to launch into something is difficult – you need to know how you’ll achieve it, one step at a time,
‘Making others aware of your goals increases the chance that you’ll stick to them, so tell supportive friends and family,’ says Professor Karen J Pine, psychologist and expert in behavioural change. And announcing on Facebook that you’re going to run 5k in six weeks’ time puts some healthy pressure on you to keep going!
Adjust your life so that it’s supportive of your new goals, says Pine. ‘If you want to quit smoking, remove anything in your environment that might prompt you to smoke, such as ashtrays and lighters, and if you’re cutting down on alcohol, don’t keep bottles of wine in the house.’ And change your routine, too. If you’re giving your diet a healthy overhaul, doyour grocery shopping online to help you to avoid temptations.
‘Being able to look forward to a treat definitely helps,’ says Pine, ‘but don’t use this as an excuse to slip back into unhealthy ways. Instead, list things that you enjoy as treats and link them to your healthier behaviours.’ For example, when you’ve gone a month without smoking, promise yourself a massage with some of the money you’ve saved.
MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS
Keep a record to remind you you’re making positive changes, says Pine. Noticing you can now run 3K without needing to slow down for a walk can be incredibly motivating, It doesn’t matter how you record your achievements – you could use an app, jot them down in a diary or simply tell other people how far you’ve come.
If you’re having trouble nodding off or staying asleep, actively doing something to tackle the problem could make it worse – that’s the surprising message from Dr Guy Meadows, sleeptherapist and author of The SleepBook – How to Sleep Well Every Night (Orion, £9.99). He believesfocusing on your sleep difficultiesmakes you more anxious – whichthen makes you alert and (yep, you’ve guessed it) keeps youawake. This new book teaches you to snooze like a natural good sleeper. One tip is mindfulness – notice the worries that you won’t be able to sleep, learn to see them as just thoughts, and watch them drift away again.