New Year, New You...?

New Year, New You...?

This is the slogan for 2019 at my workplace, the idea being that you pledge to do something towards a healthier lifestyle. As we turn from Christmas and the pile of leftovers towards New Year's, resolutions become the new topic of conversation. On my news feed, there's lots of ads and posts saying try this, try that, sign up to this gym or that gym. It can be hard to know where to start, so here are some ideas.

First place to start is with the question: Do I want to change anything?
It might be that you're in a place where just maintaining is enough of a challenge without adding something else into the mix. Particularly with our mental health, as soon as we enter a good season it can be hard to stay there. Take a garden for example. It goes through 4 seasons a year, each one bringing something new with it. There's always something to be doing in order to keep the garden in good shape; planting, weeding, pruning. Some plants may need particular care and attention to help them thrive. Not everyone is a landscape gardener, so this is more than enough each year.
Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and positive mental health is a worthy goal, and should not be belittled.

Second question: I want to change something, but what do I do?
There seems to be a record number of January themes - Red January, Veganuary, Dry January to name a few. Each on focuses on giving up or taking up something for a month, the most common being a gym membership. Last year, it was estimated that almost half a billion pounds worth of gym memberships went unused a month. It can be daunting to pick up something you may find hard to keep up for a month.
Try and think of something you want to work on for you. Is it that you want to become better at managing money, do you want to travel more, or start that new hobby which you've been talking about for ages?
If it's something you are interested in, then you may be more likely to keep up the motivation.

So, you have a idea but you're not sure how it's going to stick. One way of planning out your resolution is S.M.A.R.T.
Specific: Is your resolution specific enough? 'I want to travel more' could have a different meaning depending on who you talk to. To one, it may mean visiting new places in the UK, others may want to travel the world! You can't aim for a target if you're not sure what it is.
Measurable: How are you going to measure it? Try and put a number to your goal so there is a finish line e.g. see 5 new places or lose 20kg.
Achievable: Can you actually do it? Some people set themselves high goals and struggle during the year when they realise they may never get there. Look at what you think is easily doable, and then what would be a push and go for somewhere in between.
Realistic: This is the main thing for any goal. It takes time and effort to change something or do something new. Plus, life happens: all the good intentions in the world can't stop things getting in the way. It's worth looking at obstacles that might crop up during the year - holidays, birthdays, house moves, car services, projects or changes at work - and plan for them. Say your goal is to do exercise 3 times a week, but you have a holiday planned over the summer for a week or 2. Taking a little time to plan ahead will allow you to look at things you can do in the area. Is there a pool nearby, walks you can do, a gym in the hotel etc? Illness or an accident may take you out of action, so you need to give yourself some time and grace in those situations.
Time-bound: Most resolutions are for the year, but it may help to set some little goals along the way to see the progress you're making.

If you have done a resolution before, you might be put off doing a new one because you found it hard to create a new habit, or kept falling into old/bad habits.
You are not alone in this.
As humans, we follow the path of least resistance. The easier something is to do, the more likely we are to carry on doing it, such as buying a doughnut with morning coffee. Changing or starting new habits takes a long time, particularly if you do something big. It can take over 66 days to make something a habit, so one month being vegan may not have the long lasting effects you think it should.
S.M.A.R.T. can help with habits as it's best to go for something little. You may not be able to change your eating patterns in one go, but you could be more specific and say 'If I get hungry between meals, then I will have some fruit.' You can make this achievable by making fruit the easiest option to have in the house, but be realistic that it may not be possible 100% of the time. Again, this takes a little planning to make it easier to stay committed to your goal.

Finally, whatever you decide to do this year, whether it be maintaining or doing something different, enjoy it! Try not to compare your goal to anyone else's; we are all unique and therefore will do things differently and for different reasons. Keep hold of your reasons for doing your thing, ask for help when needed and celebrate the small victories along the way. Here's to 2019!