New Years Resolutions? 5 ways to set them so that they stick
How are your New Year’s resolutions going so far? Many of us set resolutions at the turn of the year yet a large proportion of these are discarded, rejected or sidelined within the first month or even sooner. How can we make them stick? Here are some ideas to help you set something that you can keep.
Make it deep - Set an intention
The wisdom of yoga provides a different take on the New Year’s resolution in the form of a resolve or sankalpa. Rather than assuming that we are in some way inadequate or in need of improvement, we start from the premise that we already have all that we need within us. A sankalpa is a commitment to move along a path that is inline your true nature, leading you to be the best version of yourself. When we listen to our deeper selves our actions become more powerful. Our focus is a heartfelt intention. So if your resolution is to lose weight so that you look good on the beach this summer it may not be quite so lasting as resolving to be fit and healthy so that you can keep up with your kids, feel more energised in your work or follow your dream. Meditation and yoga nidra can help us to tap into this deeper desire.
Make it your own
When setting goals for the year ahead, or indeed at any time, you may wish to consider your individual nature and past experiences. Sometimes we attempt to emulate the good habits of others when these simply won’t work for us. In her book ‘Better Than Before’ about changing habits, author Gretchen Rubin stresses the importance of tailoring your resolutions to your personality and preferences. For example if desserts are your concern, is it more achievable for you to eat them in moderation or to give them up completely? What works for someone else might not work for you and vice versa. Look to when you have fulfilled this resolve in the past for clues into how to be successful again.
Explore your setbacks
Once you have committed to something monitor what happens without judgment. In his TED talk: A simple way to break a bad habit, psychiatrist Judson Brewer discusses the power of mindfulness and being curiously aware in our moment to moment experience. By bringing awareness to the urges we have to act in ways that are contra to our new intentions, fresh insights arise. So when you reach for the biscuit or decide you can’t be bothered with the exercise class, be curious about what is happening in that moment. By beginning to notice feelings in the form of bodily sensations we can pause the movie and with practice, override the old behaviour replacing it with a more helpful course of action.
Self-compassion over self-sabotage
January tends to be the coldest, darkest, bleakest month of the year, a time in which we should probably be ‘cutting ourselves some slack’, partaking in self-care, rest and rejuvenation. Yet we often set ourselves our great personal challenges over this time. So if you don’t make it out for your 6am dark, icy cold run, don't be so hard on yourself. A perceived failure can often lead to self-sabotaging indulgence in the very thing you were attempting to avoid. Instead practice self–compassion. It’s ok to have a bad day. If it doesn’t work out as planned simply start over. As detailed in Dr. David Hamilton’s book ‘I heart me’ there is evidence that self-compassion is good for our health, reducing stress-induced inflammation in the body. So if you practice self-compassion you will be doing yourself a favour on multiple levels.
Focus on the good stuff
If you are giving something up, replace it with something else that is better. So an afternoon coffee might be replaced by experimenting with some new flavours of herbal tea. If you are adding an exercise regime make it something you enjoy. Even a brisk lunchtime walk in the park could have some unexpected benefits such as a new found appreciation of your natural surroundings. Focus on your successes however small as changes happen one small step at a time.