New Year Resolutions: A New Perspective
It’s that time of year when people review their lives and their goals. There’s something about the blank pages of a diary (or a journal) for the upcoming year that is somehow inspiring and filled with a bit of wonder and mystery. What’s the year going to hold? Will it be better or worse than last year, or just the same? New Year resolutions tend to be part of this process of reviewing a lifestyle.
It’s also the time of year when hypnotherapists tend to be quite busy, as some of the most common New Year resolutions are to lose weight and to quit smoking – and hypnosis is often used to help achieve these goals. But this article isn’t about weight loss or giving up smoking, and isn’t a plug for hypnotherapy to do this. Instead, it’s a look at New Year resolutions and how to have a greater chance of achieving them.
For a start off, let’s start with a change of terminology. How often do we talk about “resolutions” outside of the context of committee meetings? And even in the business context, resolutions are just part of a bigger process – they’re decisions that have been made about plans, goals and actions to be taken. We’ll talk about goals, dreams and plans instead.
However, the word “resolution” does contain a clue about the most important factor in the whole process of improving or changing a life. It’s to do with the word “resolve”, which is an old-fashioned word meaning willpower or determination. And whether or not you manage to keep your New Year resolutions – whoops, I mean goals – often comes down to the mind and your beliefs. Hypnosis can be used to help with a lot of these things in the mind, whatever they are, as it’s what we believe in the deepest part of ourselves that really influences our actions.
Anyway, back to the process of making New Year goals. The first thing is the timing. January the first probably isn’t the best time to make these goals and plans, especially if you’ve partied a bit hard the night before. The “morning after” syndrome tends to produce fuzzy thinking and the main goal, plan or resolution made by people who are hung over tends to be something along the lines of “I will never, ever do anything like that again!” Even if you only had a couple of glasses of wine or just stuck to the orange juice, seeing the New Year in and staying up to midnight means that you’re probably not at your best and you aren’t thinking as clearly as you might be. A better plan is to enjoy the day off and just relax without thinking about your life goals, get an early night to make up for lost sleep and to take a bit of time on January the 2nd to do the planning and setting your goals for the year.
The next part of the process is to think about what you would like to achieve in the year in your personal life. Often, New Year goals are about breaking bad habits – smoking, excess drinking and being overweight – but not all of your plans and goals have to be negative things about not doing this or giving up that. However, you can frame your goals in a positive way or look at things that you’d like to start doing or do more of. It’s probably more helpful to frame your goals in a positive way, as the phrases you write down or say out loud engrain themselves into your mind and into your thinking patterns. If you continually mention “smoking”, even in the context of “I will give up smoking”, you are thinking about smoking and reminding yourself of it. It’s far better to get what you don’t want to do right out of your mind and focus on what you do want.
When you set your New Year goals, it’s best to have something specific that you can aim to do. Some things are all-or-nothing issues (such as becoming free from a tobacco addiction and rediscovering smells and tastes, aka giving up smoking). Others need to be defined. For example, the goal of losing weight and/or exercising more is a bit vague and is thus harder to stick to, as you can’t get a clear mental picture of what you want to achieve. It’s better to have a more definite goal, such as “I will get my weight below 80 kg,” or “I will go for a run around the block at least three times a week.”
A lot of people can’t think past weight loss, exercise, addictions (e.g. tobacco and alcohol) when it comes to New Year goals. But why not think outside the box and look at your whole life rather than just your health? Here are a handful of ideas to get you started (some of which have been this writer’s New Year goals in the past – but I’m not telling you which ones!):
•To try four new activities over the next 12 months. That’s one new thing to try every three months. You don’t have to succeed at what you try – you just have to give it a go. These activities don’t have to be extreme or expensive – it could be something as small as learning some sort of craft, trying a new cuisine (either cooking it or eating it) or having a go at a sport you’ve never tried.
•Eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, especially raw ones. The pros tell us that we should eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, preferably raw and preferably more than five. And eat a range of colours – red, blue/purple, green, orange, yellow and white.
•Look beyond coffee when choosing things to drink as a way of cutting down on caffeine. Try some herbal teas instead – some are delicious.
•Write a letter (yes, a paper letter and not an email) to an out-of-town relative every month.
•Keep a journal.
•Say more positive things about yourself rather than putting yourself down.
•Get into the habit of chatting with checkout staff as a way of overcoming shyness and social anxiety.
•Throw out all the clutter in one room in the house.
Write your goals down and read them out loud. What you say and imprint into your mind is more likely to become reality. And find a way to keep yourself accountable.
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