written by Sian Jarvis, CMO
For many of us the start of a new year provides the opportunity to reflect on life and to think about where we want to be in the future. In fact around 30% of people will have made a new year’s resolution and the younger you are the more likely it is you will have pledged to make changes and to set new goals.
By far and away the biggest theme for resolutions revolves around individuals aspiring for better health and well being: losing weight, adopting dietary changes and doing more exercise tops the list. Drinking less and quitting smoking are also big commitments.
However, around a quarter of people who make a resolution at the start of January will break it by the end of the first week and another 43% will have quit by the end of the month, leaving just less than 10% of people achieving sustainable lifestyle changes.
New Year’s resolutions it seems are far easier to break than to make. So we asked one of Liva’s top nutritional coaches, Beatriz, why so many of us fail to stick to our resolutions and whether she could share her top tips for helping to make successful and lasting lifestyle changes.
‘Small and steady’ wins the race
The first lesson is to start small, taking little steps that can be integrated into your lifestyle.
“Rather than committing to radical changes, set realistic and achievable goals”, Beatriz says. “People often try to go from zero to a hundred, the all or nothing approach with goals that are so drastically different to what they currently do that it simply isn’t possible to sustain the change.
For example, if you resolve to go to the gym 7 days a week when you currently don’t go at all, it is unlikely you will stick at it for long. Instead focus your efforts into achieving ‘one small thing’ like taking a walk 2 or 3 times a week and then build up from there. This way you can integrate new habits more easily into your way of life.”
Imagine you are climbing a ladder, one step at a time
When it comes to weight-loss goals, try to be realistic. Setting out to lose several stones or kilos can feel overwhelming and unachievable. Instead, focus on losing a pound every week or two which doesn’t feel so daunting.
Beatriz encourages people she works with to imagine it’s like climbing a ladder, a step at a time. She suggests to build up gradually so the new habit becomes integrated into your lifestyle. The journey is as important as the outcome and the key to success is to embrace the process.
At the outset try to manage expectations and commit to making small, incremental improvements rather than pressuring yourself into thinking that you have to achieve everything at once.
It takes longer than you think to establish new habits
There’s plenty of research on the subject of how long it takes for a new habit to become ingrained. It’s often said that it takes a minimum of three weeks to adapt to a new change. In reality though it often takes a lot longer than this and it is important to set the right expectations at the outset.
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, 96 people over a 12-week period chose one new habit and reported each day on whether or not they did the behaviour and how automatic it felt. Some people chose habits like ‘drinking a bottle of water with lunch’, others chose more difficult tasks like ‘running for 15 minutes before dinner’.
At the end of the study the researcher analysed the data to determine how long it actually took each person to embed the new behaviour. They found that on average it takes 2 months, or 66 days to be precise. They also found that everyone is different and the time it took ranged from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
Building new habits is not an all-or-nothing process
It’s important to accept at the outset that progress is never a linear process. Frequent relapses mark the behaviour change journey but it’s important not to lose heart and motivation.
Making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on long term habits, according to the research. The most important factor is how you learn to bounce back and get back on track.
If you relapse one day just make sure you give it another shot the next day. It doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then – building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process. Don’t be put off and always look at the bigger picture.
Make the change enjoyable
Having the right mindset and motivation is essential when taking the first step on a behaviour change journey. However, the discipline to stick to the plan can disappear quite quickly so trying to make the change as enjoyable as possible is critical.
Beatriz advises people to choose something they are likely to enjoy. “If you hate running, choose an activity you will enjoy more like dancing, or walking or a team sport. Or if you are trying to eat a healthier diet with more fruit and vegetables then pick from a list you know you like.”
It can be a challenging and lonely journey, so get the right support
Some people find it helps to have people around them to encourage them to achieve their goals.
“So tell your friends and family and let other people know about your new habit, says Beatriz, “as this will help keep you accountable. You can also use timers and reminder apps to keep you on track.”
One of Liva’s most successful patients is Dennis who went through a 12 month NHS programme to lose weight and reverse his diabetes. He had tried many other methods to make the changes he needed to improve his health but it was only when he met his coach Fumi that he successfully turned his life around – Dennis said he couldn’t have done it without her professional and personalised support.
Make a list to support ‘manifestation’
The evidence shows that when you manifest or materialise something by writing it down you are more likely to stick to the change. So Beatriz’s advice is to write down your resolution.
“Whether it’s making a list before you go shopping, or jotting down your daily or weekly exercise goals to capture your intention it all helps. This helps you to track your progress and to see how the small steps add up and creates a sense of reward and accomplishment.”
Replace a bad habit with a good one
Replacing a bad habit with a good one can help you reform old habits. For example if you want to improve your diet then try swapping a bag of crisps for a piece of fruit. This worked really well for one of Liva’s patients, Christine.
Together with her nutritional coach she designed a personalised change journey that led to her losing 18 kilos in just 9 months by implementing small habits as part of her overall lifestyle change. Christine swapped her high sugar snacks for healthier habits and created her new personal motto: ‘Tea is the New Cake.’
The latest poll from Forbes magazine indicates that the primary goal in 2024 will be focused on making improvements in physical health with the majority of people citing fitness as their top resolution for the new year.
Forming new habits can take days to years to become automatic. Hopefully some of the tips and techniques from our Liva coaches outlined here will set you off on a successful change journey and ensure that your own resolution will survive through January to the year ahead!
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998-1009. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/abstract)
Maltz, M. (1960) Psycho-cybernetics. NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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