Monday, 5 January 2015

Taking the pressure out of new year's resolutions

Whether you like it or not, new year tends to mean plenty of mention of new year's resolutions. We had some friends over on new year's day who told us they each had made resolutions for the year. His was to be more spontaneous and hers to be less stressed. Of course, I didn't say anything to them but those kinds of vague, immeasurable aims are the hardest to keep!

My husband and I are not very serious about new year's resolutions but we do usually have a chat about some goals for the year in a bid to start off the new year with a bit of direction. We had a conversation this new year's eve about a couple of things we each hoped to achieve but rather than the pressure of keeping up with something for a whole year, we acknowledged that there were a couple of things we would try to do for just one month.

There is plenty of evidence out there that a month is the amount of time to make something a habit and that if you can do a month of something, you are more likely to be able to continue doing that thing longer term if you so wish. A month is a lot more manageable than a whole year and by focusing on a month initially, you are already making your goal more in your reach. Once you get to the end of the month, you will have the sense of success of having achieved your aim. Knowing you can do it for a month incentivises you to try continuing it for another month. If on the other hand, you do not wish to keep the action up, no pressure, you can leave it to the side with the knowledge you did it for a whole month and knowing you could do the same again at a later date if you feel you want to.

If you have not made any new year's resolutions but are still thinking about it, it's never too late! Starting on the first of January is not for everyone and you can start whenever feels like a good time for you. Maybe being back to the school routine is a better time to kick start a change in your daily life or maybe you want to wait until closer to spring.

In considering your possible resolutions for the year ahead, think about some of the different aspects of your life:
Physical - exercise is an obvious and common one but be specific about what kind of exercise, how long and how frequent, and be realistic! Walking more instead of always taking the car, taking the stairs instead of the lift at work are other simple changes you could choose to make.

Emotional - could be something to connect more or better with a member of your family, a weekly call to a friend, helping out a neighbour, writing a regular letter/email to someone you care about.

Spiritual - anything from going to church more, reading a spiritual text, to taking 5-10 mins a day to meditate.

Integrity - volunteer work, helping someone in need, giving some of your time to a local school/church/organisation

Intellectual - read x number of books during the year, read 5-10 mins of news each day, learn a new skill by attending a class or doing an online course

Parenting - is there something you can do differently/better with your children? You and your partner could take it in turns to do 1-1 outings/activities with the children or as a family you could introduce more regular family time in the form of short excursions/games nights or whatever

Work/career - update or add to an existing skill you have, connect with new people in your field, send out your CV to x number of recruiters/targeted companies....

Keep your resolutions simple, manageable and specific. As an example, I decided on a whim to do five minutes of Spanish every day. I had downloaded an app (Duolingo) where you can learn languages for free and can set yourself daily targets. As a busy mother to three, I do not have much spare time but five timed minutes is definitely doable. I do my five minutes, it is very quick, it is simple and yet I feel like I have accomplished something. I might not be fluent by the end of the year, but that is not my resolution!

It can definitely feel overwhelming to commit to something for a whole year. Take off the pressure by keeping goals small and measurable and initially aiming for one month. See where the month takes you and go from there!

Have you made any resolutions this year or are you still thinking about it?
photo credit


  1. Happy New Year!
    I don't do resolutions. I set an intention instead at an emotional/energetic level. It works better for me.
    enjoy your Spanish. Best way to learn?Family holiday there. :)

    1. Happy New Year Maryse! I like the sound of your 'intention' and indeed, it's all about finding something that works for you.


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