5 Tips to get the most out of your New Year Resolutions
Revolutions and Resolutions
It’s that time of the year when we start to think about making New Year’s Resolutions, and for most people the majority of these tend to revolve in some way around improving our (physical and mental) health and fitness.
In fact, a poll in 2017 found that the top resolutions that January had been to:
- Exercise more
- Lose weight
- Eat more healthily
- Take a more active approach to health
- Learn new skill or hobby
- Spend more time on personal wellbeing
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Drink less alcohol
- Stop smoking
Which, as far as I’m concerned, are all things that will benefit our health and fitness!
However, by the end of January more than 50% of people have stopped thinking about, and abandoned, their good intentions.
As a professional working in the health and wellness arena New Year’s resolutions are a mixed blessing. It’s great that people start to think about getting fitter and healthier, that’s what we got into this industry to support. But so often we see people trying to do everything at once ('dry' January, go running 5 days a week, give up chocolate, and read a worthy book every fortnight!) They get discouraged thinking that they've failed when they can’t achieve these unrealistic goals, and then give up any attempts to improve their health and fitness.
Therefore, I’m going to give you my 5 top tips for setting New Year’s resolutions that will stick.
Set Specific, Achievable Goals.
There is an acronym that is commonly used in Personal Training and Coaching: SMART. It stands for:
One of its main purposes is to remind us that while setting goals is really important, goals that are too vague or too unrealistic are not helpful. In fact, they might be counter-productive, because they become impossible to ever reach.
Don’t just set the goal “I’m going to lose weight in 2018”.
Instead set the goal: I’m going to lose 2 stone by 1 June. I’m going to do this by cutting out crisps and fizzy drinks at work, eating vegetarian one day a week, and taking 2 exercise classes each week.
We will be coming back to these SMART ideas as we look at the other tips.
Don’t try everything at once!
As mentioned above, trying to change everything all at once is a course that - for the vast majority of people - is destined for failure.
It’s okay to start with “I’m going to give up smoking”. (Probably the single most important change you can make your health).
Rather than, “I’m going to give up smoking, drinking, and I’m never going to eat cake again in my life”.
(No cake!? Be realistic, this is never going to work!)
Remember that New Year is not the only time you can make changes in your life for the better, to be healthier and fitter. We can set a series of milestones on our path to a healthier self.
After you’ve met one specific, measurable goal, then you can move onto the next.
“Reframing” is a technique by which we practice to change the way we view and experience events, ideas, and emotions to find more positive alternatives.
When we “give up something” that we like, (for example, smoking), our brain is going to keep pining for the “thing that it enjoyed”. It feels like we are denying ourselves the whole time.
If we can reframe our perspective on this, such that when we think about smoking we think “thank goodness I don’t have to spend money to puff on those terrible smelling things any more”. We can change our approach so that we are grateful that we are no longer smoking, rather than denying ourselves pleasure.
The concept works the other way around to. Perhaps there is something you know you should be doing (for example, going to the gym). But you have to force yourself to go, telling yourself it's "for your own good". We can reframe this, so that we are grateful for this gym time. That it’s a positive break from work, or it’s an exciting addition to our regular schedule that is going to make us feel good afterwards.
It’s a useful technique to practice, and it can be of benefit in many aspects of our desire to bring about positive changes in our world.
(Hey, I’m a philosophy graduate, I get to throw the odd Delphic maxim in every now and again.)
This really relates to the “realistic” aspect of our SMART goalsetting.
We have to examine ourselves to understand what goals are realistic for us, and to understand what we need to put in place in order to achieve those goals. (Socrates did say the “unexamined life wasn’t worth living”!)
If chocolate is your favourite thing in this world, it’s not realistic at this point to say “I’m never eating chocolate again”. Perhaps however, instead of a bar a night you could indulge in 2 really good quality bars each week. They can then become a treat you really look forward to.
If you hate even going into a gym, don’t buy a gym membership trying to force yourself into it. Find a style of exercise you do enjoy; try a group exercise class (I hear yoga is fantastic ;-) ), a park run, some swimming, or look to get some personal training. There are a multitude of other options.
When I teach I’m always encouraging my clients and students to be curious. To be curious about what is going on in the body, and to be curious about what is going on in their mind. We are complicated creatures, and the more we can begin to understand how and why we behave the way we do the better we can build happier healthier lives.
Build a Support Network
As I said above, it’s important to understand what we need to put in place in order to achieve our goals.
The value of a support network, who know what your goals are and who will support you in them, cannot be underestimated.
Many people find “buddying up” with a friend a great way of providing motivation. You want to get out and do the thing, because you don’t want to let your friend down, and you get the additional benefit of spending time with a pal. In my personal experience I’m always delighted when I see people joining my classes in friendship groups, because the chances that they are going to stay and become a regular, therefore getting the long-term benefits of the class, is much higher.
Then indeed, you have the support of actually attending the group exercise activities themselves, you get to know the people over time, and the social interaction can become part of the enjoyment.
For some people, it might be the direct support that friends and family can offer to support you in meeting your goal. Perhaps supporting you with childcare, preparing food, or even just kind words to help you in your chosen activity.
For others, it might be engaging with online communities with like-minded goals. There are a multitude of support groups for people engaged in all kinds of health and fitness activities. Chatting to people on a similar path can be a great support.
Finally, and yes here comes the plug, many people find great value in working with a fitness professional to support them in their health and wellness journey. The benefits of regular training and advice from a professional, in both setting and reaching those goals, can be immeasurable.
At MBM the part of my job that genuinely gives me the greatest satisfaction is helping people identify and meet their own personal fitness goals. However modest or ambitious those goals are, that is what I enjoy.
May your, wisely chosen :-) , New Year’s resolutions help bring about a health and fitness revolution in your life.