Well this is that annual time of the year when we often decide to make big changes in our lives. We think that as the calendar moves on another digit, this would be the best time to do it.
However this isn’t always the case. It might be better to tune into astrological influences or just listen to your own body for an indication of a “best time”.
Luckily for those of us who like to use the calendar, this year’s new year coincided with a new moon. New moons are traditionally a time for clearing out the old and bringing in the new and interestingly enough, both myself and my partner decided to have a clear out over new year. I’ve read that this will make it a better year than most for getting resolutions to stick at this time.
Now onto the resolutions themselves. I often hear people saying they’re going to give something up because they know it’s not good for them. However I find it’s easier to make changes if we choose something positive.
When we stop ourselves for doing something, our bodies rebel. Denying ourselves causes us to focus on the thing we’ve denied. It’s why when we give up chocolate, or cigarettes, we think about them constantly and get horrendous cravings.
So what about the positive resolutions, for example going to the gym each week? How do we ensure that we stick to these? Well, firstly we need to check that they are what we really want. Are we signing up to gym membership because all our friends do this? Would we be happier joining a sports team, going running, or taking up yoga. Gym exercise suits some people, but it definitely doesn’t suit everyone and it’s only one way of getting fit.
The other thing to remember about any new routine as that it takes a while for new habits to stick. The length of time it takes depends on the person and the new activity we’re trying to take on. The 21 day rule that’s often bounded around is a myth. Some habits can be formed more quickly but others will take a lot longer.
While we often start off with bounds of energy, this will probably fade at some point and that is where our determination has to come online. It might be easy to go running on some crisp bright mornings, but what happens when you wake up and it’s grey and chucking it down with rain?
How we respond to this, determines how easily we face the next challenge. If we’ve gone out in the rain, it will be easier to do next time. If we stayed in bed, it will be harder. If we can get through a few of these, the habit will start to form. But beware, a large break in the pattern can return us to the old habit.
With any new resolution, we need to make sure we’re what we truly want. If we decide to cut out alcohol for a while to detox, but we generally use it to de-stress at the end of the week, then we’re going to be pulled in two directions. On the one hand we’re being drawn to a healthier lifestyle which will make us feel better, but on the other hand we’re being drawn to an activity which will make us feel calm and relaxed.
We need to address this second pull if we are to achieve the primary goal. Maybe we need to find a new way to relax: doing some exercise, reading a book or taking up meditation. Or maybe we need to take a look at why our life is so stressful in the first place.
And finally, there will always be the points where we slip from our new plans. For this reason I like to use the term goals rather than resolutions. Resolutions imply we are going to make one change and stick to it for the rest of our lives. Sometimes that happens, but more often it’s a process where we have a few setbacks along the way to success. Sometimes life gets in the way and we have to defer our goals for a bit. There’s no problem in starting a new regime in February or March, or even October.
If our goal is quite a big one, like developing a healthy lifestyle, it might make more sense to phase it in gradually over a few months, rather than taking it all on at once. I find that new habits tend to stick better when we take small steps.
But the most important thing is to listen to ourselves and our needs. Awareness is the key.