Why Can’t I Keep My New Year’s Resolution?
Blue Tree intern and aspiring psychologist Maddy Lykourgos describes the pressures of a new year and the dreaded resolutions…
Happy New Year from your team here at The Blue Tree Clinic!
It’s that time of year again, once the festivities are over and the hard work seems to begin. There’s a particular pressure on starting the year fresh and making drastic changes, in other words, New Year’s resolutions; promises to ourselves that we haven’t been able to keep throughout the year, but with a fresh start comes a fresh opportunity to achieve something that has previously been unachievable. However, only around 10% of people that make resolutions end up sticking to them for more than a few months, whether it’s saving money, doing exercise or finding a hobby. At this point in January we tend to get an idea of how these resolutions might go, be it that things are going according to plan, we keep postponing our start date or we create excuses to press pause a little too often. The question remains: why do so many of us struggle to keep New Year’s resolutions?
It’s important to remember that we tend to be creatures of habit. Many of us seemingly function best with a set routine and require something drastic to happen in order for us to drastically change our habitual patterns of behaviour. The social expectation of this forced change can have its own consequences. Unfortunately, a new year is not significant enough on its own for most of us to make a change, and it usually doesn’t come at a convenient time and hence goals become unrealistic.
Considering the amount of cognitive effort it takes to really make a positive change in our lives, this shouldn’t make us negatively reflect on our self-worth or discourage us from trying again. It takes being in the right mind-set to really commit to making a substantial change. For instance, merely saying you will try to quit smoking may not be enough, but identifying yourself as a non-smoker and truly believing it will enhance your chances of following through with it. If you are experiencing a considerable amount of strain or distress as a result of this, please get in contact with us here at The Blue Tree Clinic to see what help we may have to offer you.
Here are a few small tips of how to help make your resolutions stick:
Set SMART goals: this technique is often used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and since the main principles of CBT are about changing our ways of thinking in order to achieve different outcomes in our daily life, it seems a good place to start.
Targets should be:
SPECIFIC: don’t try to do too much all in one go. Choose one aspect you wish to change and stick to it. What exactly is your desired outcome?
MEASURABLE: try to lay out markers or set quantities so that you can tell how you’re doing. For example, cutting down the amount of sugar you eat might translate to eating no more than one sugary product every two days.
ACHIEVABLE: how likely is it that following this particular plan will lead you to your end result?
REALISTIC: be practical about what you may personally be able to do. It’s no use setting unattainable goals that will, in turn, reinforce an inability to complete them. Breaking up a goal into shorter term objectives can reduce the amount of effort needed to reach it.
TIME-BOUND: establishing a time frame can help sustain your new set of behaviours. In fact, many resolutions fail simply because we’re not sure how long to carry them on for.
Tell someone: you can even work with your friends towards a common goal. Changing your habits can be difficult, so having someone in your corner to support you, taking away temptation or joining in to make the change can really improve your chances of success.
Don’t be too hard on yourself: when quitting a bad habit or restricting certain behaviours, it is common to slip up. Though it is part of the learning process to rewire our previously automatic processes, lapses leave us feeling guilty about giving in, or as though we have failed ourselves and those around us. For some extra support around battling addictions, or for some advice on how to prevent them taking over, we offer a range of treatments here at The Blue Tree Clinic.
Remember to celebrate your progress. Making a lasting positive change is never easy, so focus on how far you have come. Good luck to those who are brave enough to take on the New Year’s Resolutions.