Ooh, would you look at that – it’s the first week of January and you’ve already broken your resolutions to stop smoking, to go to the gym nine times a week and to stop eating cake. Now you feel a bit coughy (from all those roll-ups), lazy (because walking past the gym doesn’t count as going) and full (from all that delicious ginger cake). But, worst of all, you feel massively guilty about everything. God, you’re such a monumental FAILURE. 2015 is pretty much ruined, right?
You’re not a failure. Your only mistake was making resolutions you had no hope of keeping in the first place. A study of 4000 people found that 39% gave up their resolutions within just two weeks – hardly surprising when January is grey, miserable, cold and awful and you’ve decided to give up the only things that are getting you through it.
The resolutions you should be making this year are ones that add to your life, not detract from it. For example, instead of signing up to some ridiculous diet that will only ever work in the short-term at best (sorry, but it’s true), choose to up your fitness levels instead – do more exercise rather than eat less cake. Add something to your life rather than take something away. That way you’re not restricting yourself and so won’t feel resentful when you troop off to the gym. You can still cut down on the cake munching if you want, but do it gradually, day-by-day, rather than ordering yourself to go cold turkey (or cold cake). If you do want to improve how and what you eat (and manage emotional eating), Dr Jessamy Hibberd and I set out a totally achievable eating plan in our new title This Book Will Make You Feel Beautiful.
Also, get into mindfulness NOW. There are billions of studies (I’ve counted) that prove meditating will make you happier, healthier, more creative, more patient, more open-minded, less angry and less anxious. So why aren’t you doing it? Book out a slot each day (actually book it in your diary so you’re less likely to skip it), set a timer for ten minutes, go sit in a quiet room and employ all your senses: what can you see, hear, feel, taste and smell? Try to notice when your mind wanders off, but don’t get angry – your mind is designed to wander – just bring it back to the task at hand, which is being aware of the world around you. Use your breath as an anchor if it helps – counting your breath in and out (an inhale and exhale count as ‘one’ breath). Again, don’t worry if you lose count, just start again at ‘one’ when you notice your mind has wandered. There are lots of basic strategies in my new book This Book Will Make You Mindful, a starter-kit for becoming more present in your day-to-day life.
Next, make a list of things you’d like to achieve this year, positive things that will add to your life rather than negatives to give up. For example, ‘get a new job’ rather than ‘tell my boss to get stuffed’. Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. So if you’re hoping to get a new job, aim for one that’s realistic (achievable), i.e. ‘look for a job one-step up from where I am now’ rather than ‘become CEO of Google’ and set yourself a time frame of when you want to achieve it by (timely). Speak to people who might know of any jobs going in the field you want to work in and discuss what you’ll need to do to improve your chances (specific). Then write down each step of the plan so you can tick them off (measurable). Perhaps most importantly though, note down why this is relevant – why do you want to achieve this? Why do you want this job? The goal has to be worthwhile or you won’t bother trying.
Check back in on your plan every week or so to see how you’re getting on and ask friends or family to remind you why you’re doing it if you hit a lull (social support is a huge motivator). By making a plan (and actually writing it down) you’re much more likely to stick to it and by breaking down your goals into small manageable steps and rewarding yourself as you meet each target you’ll be far more motivated to keep going.