Resolutions aren’t just a new year’s thing. The start of every month, week or day is an opportunity to make changes that will improve your health and your life. While there are lots of opportunities to make health resolutions, the best option is to make them once and stick to them.
But if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be a multimillion-dollar industry around health, diet and exercise. If you want to make your resolutions stick this time. Here are some science-backed strategies to try.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. The theory is that making the right sort of resolutions will improve your chances of success. So pick something specific you want to achieve that way, you know when you’ve got there. Make it something measurable so you an track your progress. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making it too hard. Put a deadline on it. For instance:-
“I’m going to lose 3 kg in 6 months.” is a much better resolution than “I’m going to lose weight.”
If you want to lose more than your goal, that’s fine because when six months rolls around, you can set a new target. This keeps the momentum going. The length of time you choose is a personal thing, but it’s important it is sustainable. So have a try and see what motivates you the best.
Sometimes improving our health isn’t enough motivation to keep us going. You can improve your chances of sticking to a resolution by having an external motivator as well. Commitment devices come in lots of shapes and sizes, but they all work the same way. The idea is to find a way to tie yourself to meeting your goal.
The simplest commitment device is to tell someone about your goal. Once you do this, you will have added a bit of social pressure to follow through. A financial commitment is another common commitment device. For example, paying for a gym membership is a pressure to go out and exercise more.
The best commitment devices have both social and financial factors. Hiring a personal trainer or signing up for a weight loss clinic are optimal choices. This is because not only have you put money in, but there is someone keeping track of your progress. With this sort of device, you are really locked into the path of meeting your goal. You also have support to get you there.
Only 4% of people keep their resolutions. If you want to be in that select group, you’ll need help. Telling someone about your resolution and talking to them about it every now and then can help to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Long term, lasting change is hard. Having some to talk to about it is good. Having someone that will warn you when you’re slipping is even better. A workout partner, a diet buddy, a life coach, a weight loss clinic, all of these are viable options. So look to your circle and see who there is in your life that can help you get where you want to go.
Behavioural economics researchers are often big fans of temptation bundling. That’s because this is a way of building on your natural preference to do things that you like or that are fun, as well as the power of habit
Temptation bundling is a pretty simple idea. You pick something that you like to do, e.g. listening to your favourite podcast or getting a coffee from the best shop on the street. Then you only let yourself enjoy that thing when you complete the task you are resolving to do. So perhaps you can only listen to your podcast while you’re at the gym. Or you will only get a cup of great coffee on days when you’ve followed your meal plan and stayed within your calorie limit.
Doing this links the hard thing with the fun thing, making it less challenging. It also builds a pattern in your mind. Our brains are very lazy, which is why habits are powerful. Repeating a pattern of behaviour engrains it in your mind. It becomes one less choice you have to make each day. If you can build a healthy habit into a positive habit, you’re on the road to success.
It can be really frustrating to know that you’ve failed at sticking to your resolution. But if you are your own harshest critic, you’re going to find it hard to bounce back when you make a mistake. You will make a mistake. You’re human, and we all do it.
But if you can forgive yourself for making a mistake and then move on, you have a better chance of getting back on track. The alternative is that you get really frustrated and down on yourself because you messed up. This often spirals, and you end up losing all the good work you’ve done to get where you did. Remember, one bad day doesn’t mean you’ve lost all of your progress.
If you’ve been making the same resolution every year for a long time, then it’s time for a change. Making a resolution you’ve already failed on keeping isn’t being persistent. It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy if you just keep trying the same thing over and over. So give yourself a break, make a new resolution and make it a SMART one so that you can break the chain and start something new.
If you’re an ambitious person, then you might end up with a list of resolutions as long as the page you start writing on. While having a lot of goals can make you feel like you’re being productive or making big changes, it can just make it harder to progress.
If you’re splitting your focus into ten different resolutions, chances are you’ll end up breaking them all. If you set one clear, sustainable resolution, then you can commit all your resources to stick to it. Then once it’s a new habit, you can move on to the next resolution.
If you need support, accountability and an action plan for your weight loss goals, our doctor-led clinic can help you create long-lasting, sustainable change built on healthy habits, a positive mindset and practical tools. To find out more, book your free consultation here.