It’s that time of year when we all look to get fitter, healthier and happier – again. But with 80% of New Year resolutions failing by February, it’s time to find a new way to make and achieve healthy goals.
“The whole idea of making a resolution is because we feel it’s time for change – in our jobs, at home or in ourselves,” says Stacey Levine, psychologist and health practitioner. “But often we make mistakes before even starting, by potentially making them unrealistic and impossible to keep.”
Setting one goal or resolution such as losing weight or going to the gym five times a week isn’t always the most effective. It can mean we’re forever chasing fulfilment that is just out of reach. Perpetuating guilt when we ‘fall off the wagon’ or don’t achieve it in time, can leave us feeling demotivated.
Ready to make this year different? Here’s how to make intentions that stick in five easy steps…
1. Set intentions instead of resolutions
Researchers and experts are now realising the benefits of setting intentions. This helps us attribute more meaning and flexibility to our goals. Scientists at the University of Exeter say realistic goal-setting is an effective way to tweak our lifestyle and live longer.
“Instead of resolutions, I set intentions for the new year,” says fitness trainer and yoga teacher Samantha Dublin. “I take a step back from ‘I want to lose weight’ and move towards ‘I want to take better care of my body.’ Intention-setting increases my chances of succeeding by allowing for a range of actions towards accomplishing my goal – from getting outside more to eating less junk food. But, more importantly, I don’t get derailed by a bad week and adjustments can be made easily. There are many paths to complete my intention journey.”
2. Reflect on the things you’ve already achieved
Before creating goals, use the new year to reflect on everything you’ve accomplished over the last year – everything you have to be grateful for. There’s probably a lot more there than you originally thought. Write it all down, review it and update it throughout the year. “Progress equals happiness,” says author and anthropologist Tony Robbins. Use the progress you already have to propel you forward.
3. Make intentions when you feel ready
“My first tip for making a successful change that sticks starts with your state of mind,” says Stacey. “Wait until you’re feeling more positive before even thinking about changes you want to make in the New Year. This should help prevent any unrealistic expectations you may have, creating a healthy realism in your efforts to make positive and achievable plans for the coming year.”
4. Start with small, defined intentions
According to research by Stanford Graduate School of Business, small but concrete actions can boost our happiness more than generic, lofty ones. One group of the study’s participants was assigned the goal to make someone smile, while the other’s was to make someone happy. The result? Those who were driving smiles over happiness reported a greater boost in wellbeing. “This was driven by the size of the gap between expectations and reality,” says the paper’s abstract.
Similarly, making huge, generic vows such as achieving a pay rise of “x” amount or losing “x” amount of weight, are very hard to achieve. “Instead, try to make small promises that are easier to keep, such as eating more vegetables or going for a daily walk,” suggests Stacey. Not only are these more positively charged, but they’re also something you can realistically achieve and, as a result, stay motivated.
5. Remember that you’re in control
“True change comes from within, so it’s really helpful to remember that it only takes a change of mind to make a change in life,” reminds Stacey. You’re never stuck with one way of doing something because you can always change your mind. Let your goals evolve. What you feel or want may change over time. Be flexible with yourself and you’re much more likely to achieve.
So have fun, make positive changes and enjoy the New Year!
Ready to set a positive new intention for the year? If you’re a Vitality health insurance, life insurance or investments member with an eligible plan, you can log in to Member Zone to get 30% off an annual subscription to Headspace. Plus, you can earn Vitality points for mindful meditations from Buddhify, Calm and The Mindfulness App.