Social Science

HNP explains: How to make new year's resolutions that last all year

Posted on 1/02/20

One of the best - and most underrated - things about the holiday season is the abundance of empty, idle moments between the feasting, boozing and merriment.

Such blank spaces provide space for you to ponder how you’d like things to play out over the year that’s just about to unfurl.

We’re talking, of course, about New Year’s resolutions: those mid-winter pledges we make to ourselves, around everything from spending and scheduling and optimising our health.

While it’s cliché to talk about how short-lived resolutions tend to be, well, that’s the truth. And it’s a reality that’s helping no one on their mission to feel and perform at their best as we enter a whole new decade. So, let’s aim to remedy that, shall we?

The first step, according to Dr Jessamy Hibberd, clinical psychologist and author of The Imposter Cure (£12.99, Octopus), is to make your pledge positive. ‘It’s a compassionate approach, rather than a self-critical one,’ she explains. But it’s a more effective one, too. ‘It feels like you’re gaining something that way, which is far better at motivating you than “giving up” something or placing restrictions on yourself,’ she adds.

Those, Dr Jessamy explains, are destined to fail in the long-term. ‘All the research shows that self-criticism makes you less effective at implanting new coping strategies,’ says Dr. Jessamy. Best avoided, then.

So, how do you make a negative resolution, positive? Let’s take the very modern epidemic of cancelling social plans. Rather than telling yourself that you’re no longer going to make plans only to bail on them time and again, Dr Jessamy suggests taking a different approach: scheduling alone time, and sticking to it like you would a business meeting, or a family birthday.

Stopping cancelling plans by...cancelling more plans? While it may sound counterintuitive, it really isn’t.

‘Habitually cancelling plans indicates that you’re not allowing yourself enough unscheduled time within which to rest and recharge,’ she explains. ‘And by scheduling dedicated alone time, you’re actively giving yourself the thing that you need.’

If you want to build change that lasts, experts’ consensus is that you need to make your resolutions - which are, essentially, goals - SMART. Acronym explanation incoming…

1/ Simple

2/ Measurable

3/ Achievable

4/ Relevant

5/ Time-bound

Financial advisor Lisa Conway-Hughes, author of Money Lessons (£12.99, Penguin Life) believes that SMART resolutions are vital if, in 2020, you’re determined to improve your financial health.

‘Unless you have a time frame and a way of measuring success, your aim isn’t a resolution or a goal - it’s a wish,’ she tells HNP. ‘And being specific is important, too, in that it focuses your mind - and spending habits - on what you’re actually trying to achieve.’

Again, here, it pays to focus on the positive. ‘Saving for an apartment or a once-in-a-lifetime trip gives you a specific, exciting thing that you can focus on and visualise,’ Lisa explains. ‘Having this to aim for, makes it much easier to stick to, say, skipping that extra meal or boozy night out each week.’

The final thing? Your resolution needs to be authentic. What might be meaningful or galvanising for someone else might not speak to where you’re at with your life - and what you want - right now. Change is hard, so - in order for it to last - you need to be embarking on that journey because you want to.

Got it? Good! Here’s to a positive, smart and authentic 2020.