Now that we are well into January how are your New Year’s resolutions going? Don’t feel bad if you’ve already had to dip into your children’s chocolate selection box, or missed your session at the gym. Research conducted in 2007 shows that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail to keep them. In this article, we will look at why New Year’s resolutions don’t stick, what you can do about it and how hypnosis can help.
What was your New Year’s Resolution this year?
According to a Comres survey, a third of Brits make New Year’s resolutions and a YouGov poll showed the most popular were;
|Eat more healthily||31%|
|Take more care of my appearance||15%|
|See more of family/friends||14%|
|Find more time for myself||12%|
|Get better at work-to-life balance||12%|
|Stop drinking alcohol/drink less||11%|
|Give up smoking||5%|
As you can see, many people really want to be healthier, slimmer and enjoy life more. Unfortunately, 43% of those who failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions didn’t even manage a month before caving into temptation or going back to old or bad habits.
Why don’t New Year’s Resolutions stick?
As you probably already know from your own experience, just because we say we are going to quit smoking, lose weight, go to the gym or just make more time for ourselves, it doesn’t mean it is actually going to happen. Despite our best intentions, there are a couple of reasons why our resolutions just don’t stick.
Making personal changes requires willpower and it’s best to think of willpower as being like a muscle. Just as your biceps can only manage so many push-ups before they give up, willpower is a limited resource that can be overloaded when asked to do too much. The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for willpower, is also in charge of short term memory and solving abstract problems. Expecting it to take on the task of losing weight as well as everything else we have to do is just asking too much. In fact, experiments show that when this part of the cortex is overloaded with information, participants are more likely to eat unhealthy food.
Another factor that reduces our success rate is our need for instant gratification. In a famous experiment called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, small children were told that if they could resist the marshmallow (or cookie or pretzel) in front of them for 15 minutes then they would get to eat the marshmallow and get a second as a reward. Only a third of the children managed to delay gratification long enough to receive the second marshmallow. The children who were successful were able to distract themselves for long enough, for example by singing to themselves or tying their shoelaces. In other words, using distraction techniques they were able to remove the temptation from their consciousness. In a follow-up study many years later the group that had resisted the temptation “tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures”.
How can I make my resolutions stick?
If you really want to make a success of your New Year’s resolutions here are 5 really useful tips to increase your chances of success this year.
- Only set yourself one resolution at a time – don’t overload your cortex with too many goals or targets
- Make sure your resolution is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic & time related). For example, commit to losing 8lbs in 10 weeks, rather than just “lose some weight”
- Ask a friend or family member to help and support you. Keep them updated with your progress and speak to them when your willpower is slipping. Even better, find someone with a similar resolution eg quit smoking, and do it together
- Think of your goal in terms of baby steps. Identify milestones along the way and make sure you celebrate each milestone you hit. For example, your first milestone could be 10 visits to the gym in 8 weeks. Reward yourself by going to the movies or having a pamper session
- Don’t beat yourself up if you have a setback. Dust yourself off, accept that you need to take one step at a time and recommit to your goal. Learn to be more mindful and less judgemental or self-critical by focusing on the present rather than the past or the future
How hypnosis can make your goals more achievable
When working with clients who are looking to change old, unwanted habits, such as smoking or biting nails, I successfully incorporate a technique called the Benefits Approach developed by a hypnotherapist called Roy Hunter. The process involves identifying the rewards or benefits of changing a behaviour and incorporating that into a future image of ourselves.
To begin with, define your goal and then identify the benefits. Write them down and make sure they will offer sufficient motivation to help you change. For example, if you want to lose weight your goal might be to lose 3 stone in 6 months. The benefits of losing that weight might be:
- I’ll be healthier (this might even be related to an illness such as diabetes)
- I’ll have more energy (and decide what you will do with this extra energy)
- I’ll have a better self-image
- I’ll have a greater choice over the clothes I can buy and wear
- I’ll be less conscious about my weight
- I’ll feel more attractive
- I’ll feel happier about myself
Once you are happy with your benefits you are ready to do some hypnosis
- Find 5 –10 minutes in your morning or night time routine to find somewhere you can be undisturbed to close your eyes and relax
- Close your eyes and simply count down slowly from 10 to zero. With each number allow yourself to become more comfortable and relaxed
- Once you are nice and relaxed, create in your own imagination an image of yourself, as you wish to be one year in the future, having achieved your goal. Be aware of how you look, how you feel, how you walk, talk and behave.
- As you enjoy that image focus on all your benefits; feeling healthier, happier, fitter etc and think about how those benefits are going to impact on your life. See yourself as you want to be doing the things you want to do.
- As you focus on those benefits create a wonderful feeling of success, as though you have already achieved your goal, as though those images are the present.
- Spend as much time as you want enjoying those images, feelings and ideas.
- Then spend a few moments refocusing on your goal and your commitment to achieving that goal. Become more aware that the benefits and rewards you identified are realistic and achievable.
- Finally, when you are ready, you can slowly emerge yourself from hypnosis by counting up from 1 to 5, becoming more energised with each number.