Given up on your New Year goals already? You're not alone. Research has revealed that many of us have already called time on our vow to live a better 2023, with 16 January cited as the exact date most Brits give up on their health and fitness goals.
And that’s not forgetting the so-called ‘Quitter’s Day’, the most likely day for people to turn their backs on their resolutions, which falls on the second Friday of the year and sees an estimated 40% abandon their good intentions.
It’s not all that surprising if you think about it – the weather is freezing, the days are short and dark, and Christmas is but a distant memory, so it's easy to think it's all too hard to stick to the 'better you' strive.
"Setting New Year goals is an incredibly powerful way to create some big changes and shifts in life," explains psychologist, coach and author, Susie Pearl.
"The trouble is, we start with good intentions and then somehow they can fall away and we drift back into old patterns and habits of before. Many people face failure with their resolutions before they even start and are reluctant to even bother setting more year after year."
If you're feeling disheartened about the prospect of not being able to stick to your new year vows, it may help to know you're in good company, as research has found it can take an average of 66 days for a new habit to take hold.
And while it's totally OK if you do want to abandon the goal ship, if you really want to try sticking it out this year, there are some expert-backed methods to help you get there.
In simple terms a vision board is a visual representation of your goals, created with pictures, words, and other items, typically on a pin board. While similar to a mood board, they are not actually the same. A mood board is more of a planning tool used for aesthetics, for example decorating a room. A vision board, however, relates to your life direction, and they can be a powerful tool for achieving goals.
"Vision Boards help keep the mind focused on the end goal," explains clinical hypnotherapist Helen Hardware. "To elicit the best result, the images/words on a vision board need to elicit an emotional response that then excites and motivates the subconscious mind to keep taking action towards the goal."
Creating clear picture in our mind, also gives us something to work towards.
"By looking at a vision board as a minimum daily, it can often create a reminder trigger before an action is taken to ask yourself whether the thing I’m about to do going to help me reach my goal," Hardware adds.
As well as taking 66 days to change behaviours, it takes six months for those new habits to be embedded into your personality, so perseverance is essential.
"Tracking behaviour patterns is a great way to keep yourself accountable, monitor progress and keep motivated," explains Dr Tom MacLaren, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health.
Whether you're giving up smoking (or vaping), losing weight, cutting down on alcohol or increasing fitness, Dr MacLaren says habit trackers are a great way to stay on top of your achievements.
"It’s important to remember that practice makes perfect so it’s imperative to keep trying," he adds. "Goals need to be worked at and this mostly means hard work, especially at the beginning."
However, we are all human so it’s important not to be too hard on yourself if you do fall off the goal wagon.
"Strive for consistency rather than perfection," advises Dr MacLaren. "If you maintain your resolutions 80% of the time you are doing really well.
"And don’t give up if you stumble at the first hurdle, get back up and keep going," he continues. "Also, keep referring back to your progress report and revisit the initial motivation for making the goal."
When setting any goal, it’s important to set yourself up for success, so make goals that are realistic and also achievable.
"Don’t try changing everything at the same time," advises MacLaren. "It’s easier to pick one or two (bad!) habits and change them, rather than trying to change lots of different things at once, this can be hugely overwhelming and restricting."
He suggests breaking down your long-term goals into short-term targets and rewarding yourself for each milestone achieved. For example while your long-term goal could be to get fit, your short term goal could be to move for 30 minutes each day.
"Track your progress by journaling, with habit trackers and vision boards from the starting point, so you can see and celebrate your achievements along the way."
Watch: How to keep your resolutions beyond 'quitter's day'
When setting goals Dr MacLaren recommends starting a journal and recording your reasons for making them, your feelings along the way, benefits you are seeing and the challenges you are facing.
"This enables you to continually refer back to see the progress you have made and for the extra motivation," he explains.
Connect to your goals
When it comes to achieving our goals, it’s important to have clear objectives around why you are doing something.
"In order to motivate ourselves, we need to feel connected to our goals - and that’s where we can turn to our emotions," advises Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.
"For example, if we’ve set ourselves the goal of working out “X” times a week and we wake up feeling demotivated, we can visualise how we’re going to feel after we’ve been to the gym - the rush of endorphins, the satisfaction at having pushed through our reluctance."
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Find a goal buddy
Getting a goal buddy and setting up some co-support is one of the keys to your success. "A goal buddy is powerful in helping you stay on track," explains Pearl.
"It also helps to tell your friends, family, work mates about your goals so everyone knows and can support you – it’s harder to break your plan when everyone is cheering you on and asking how you are doing."