The credit card bills are starting to pour in. All the wine is gone. And you’ve eaten so much stuffing you feel like a turkey.
The post-holiday hangover can be a time for reflection and life changes but New Year’s resolutions fail at notoriously high rates.
Researchers tracking 200 New Year’s “self-change attempts” only found a 19 per cent success rate after two years, according to a not-all-that-surprising study out of the University of Scranton.
But there is hope for success. Here are some tips to help you reach your New Year’s resolution goals.
Make a plan, set goals, and start small
A little bit of planning goes a long way when attempting to make a life change, and it can mean the difference between keeping your resolution or having the best intentions crash and burn.
“I think it’s really a matter of not going into the New Year with these huge resolutions and no practical game plan of how you’re going to pull it off,” holistic coach Kimberly Carroll said.
Make sure your resolutions are achievable and doable. Planning to go to the gym every day might not fit into your schedule, but perhaps a goal of three times a week will set you on track to hitting a bigger target.
“It’s the goals you choose, and then how you bring those goals to fruition,” Carrol said. “As soon as that momentum starts to build it naturally can build to more ambitious goals and actions.”
Get yourself pumped up to make the change
What will reaching your goal do for you? Keeping your eye on a specific benefit from the change will help you to make those sacrifices.
“I find a way to get people really motivated is to get them to think about ‘If you actually follow through on this what will it give you?” psychotherapist and life coach Krista Roesler said .
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It could be happiness, freedom, security or fulfillment — whatever is it, visualize how the change will improve your life and get excited.
Reflect on your root causes
Often bad habits can be triggered by more than just a pure enjoyment of Netflix, or needing to have shiny new things all the time. For some there can be deeply-rooted feelings that need to be addressed before changes can be made.
“There’s always a reason behind those bad habits, they don’t just come out of nowhere,” Carroll said. “Examine: Why am I overeating at night?”
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Try to identify if anxiety, boredom or loneliness is pulling the trigger. If your vice is gossiping, perhaps you’re battling low self-esteem or jealousy.
“It really does help to do some emotional detective work when you’re setting your New Year’s resolution.”
Find a support network and make yourself accountable
Find a resolution buddy or group to help you achieve your goals. Turn to the internet or use an app if there is a lack of support in your personal network. And be explicit about the support you need.
“Tell them: ‘this is how you can support me in this’,” Roesler said. “The more support they can get, the more successful they will be.”
Declare your goals and you’re more likely to reach them.
“Accountability is the cornerstone of all goal-attainment,” said Carroll.
Celebrate each milestone and reward yourself
So you said you’d lose 20 pounds, and six weeks later you’ve only lost five. Instead of beating yourself up, recognize what achievements have been made.
“That’s an epidemic in our society — we don’t celebrate achievements,” said Carroll. “Then we never feel the sense of achievement that is an incredible motivator.”
If you’ve made specific and measurable mini-goals, you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back when you get there.
Don’t let hiccups throw the whole plan off track
A small slip up does not mean total failure. The University of Scranton study found that of those successful resolutioners, more than half slipped up at least once, with an average of 14 slip-ups over the two years.
“Start again,” Roesler said. “Get some help, talk it out with your friends. That’s going to happen, just be prepared to pick yourself up and keep going.”
Fill the void
If you are cutting something out of your life, its wise to introduce something new.
“A lot of resolutions are about deprivation. I’m a big believer that instead of just giving something up, it’s important to also take on something that can fill the gap,” Carroll said.
If you’re quitting smoking you could take up yoga or grab an adult colouring book. Replace gossiping or shopping with doing good deeds.
Don’t wait for Jan. 1 to make a change
While the New Year is a popular time to make a change, you can start with a fresh slate any time of the year. Perhaps it’s a birthday, or with the changing of the season.
“It’s good to take times of the year when you stop, take stock and correct your life navigation a little bit,” Carroll said.
Bottom line: any time is a good time to make positive changes in your life.