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New Year's resolutions: how to keep them

Rosalind Scutt
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
image: istock

Do you eat the entire packet of Tim Tams when you only meant to have one, bite your nails, ditch spin class for an extra sleep in or consistently fail to keep private all those secrets your best friend told you? Whatever your New Year's resolution, learn how to ditch your dodgy habits and get on with your new and improved life, all in time for a fabulous 2012!

1. Be realistic
The surest way to fall short of your goal is to set a goal that is unattainable. For instance, resolving to never eat your favorite food again is completely unrealistic. Strive for a goal that is attainable, such as avoiding it more often than you do now.

2. Clearly define your goals
In order to know what you're aiming for, you will need to clearly define your goal. "getting fit in 2012" is not as clear as "three exercise sessions per week". Define your goals from the outset to ensure you can't cheat.

3. Be accountable
We succumb to old habits automatically and we can't change unless we catch ourselves in the act. When you do, practice vocalising your reason to 'commit' your habit. For example, if you reach for a cigarette, say, "I choose to smoke, even though it's bad for my health". The verbal reinforcement will help you to drop the negative behaviour.

4. Keep a diary
Research shows that having a written record of your behaviour helps you to do better (sometimes, we don't even realise how much the habit is affecting our behaviour).

5. Find a substitute
Going cold turkey is tough, so go warm turkey and create good habits to replace the bad ones. For example, every time you think about eating chocolate, drink a glass of water instead.

6. Practice your new habit often
Bad habits imprison us; good ones bring us closer to our desires. The more you make your desires part of your everyday life, the more it will become an unconscious routine.

7. Accept relapse
It's not because you're weak or undisciplined that you fail in forging new habits. It's because relapses are an inevitable part of change. In fact, your brain takes six to nine months to 'learn' new behaviour. Keep this in mind and don't give up!

8. Seek support from friends and family
Sometimes you need extra support and the buddy system works. Explain your goals to someone close and ask them to help you achieve your objectives. Better still, enlist the help of others by joining a group that shares your same goal.

9. Reward yourself
This doesn't mean that you can eat an entire box of chocolates if your resolution is to diet. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something that you enjoy that does not contradict your resolution. If you've been sticking to your promise to eat better, for example, perhaps your reward could be going to a movie with a friend.

10. Keep trying
If your resolution has totally run out of steam by mid-February, don't despair. Start over again! There's no reason you can't make a "New Year's resolution" any time of year.

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