Struggling with New Year’s resolutions? | Sunday Observer

Struggling with New Year’s resolutions?

Here are some tips to boost your willpower, from dodging doughnuts to making the most of mornings

It is tempting, when your shiny New Year’s resolutions start to crumble, to tell yourself that self-control simply isn’t your strong point. “Oh well,” you might say, surrendering to the desire for a large glass of red. “No willpower, that’s my problem.”

But, according to a body of scientific research, willpower is not a talent that a lucky few are born with. It is a skill to be practised. “Willpower is a dynamic, fluctuating resource,” explains Frank Ryan, consultant clinical psychologist and author of Willpower for Dummies. “Our level of willpower fluctuates according to our motivation in any given situation. Everybody can learn to use their willpower more effectively”.

Here are a few ways to increase your chances.

Know yourself

To maximise chances of sticking to resolutions, Ryan says, we should identify our “willpower profile,” For example: some people are more impulsive than others. That does come down to personality.

Introverts tend to get energised by thoughts and ideas, so if that’s you, you should find it easier to get motivated by an inner vision than extroverts, who get fired up by people and social approval. “It’s about coping with temptation, which often comes from the environment: the people, places or things that act as motivational magnets to challenge your willpower.” In other words: if you are trying to avoid cake, it is probably best to find a route home that swerves the artisanal doughnuts.

Make a plan

A study published found that 91% of participants who wrote down a plan of when and where to exercise successfully met their goals. “Planning is important because the brain builds a story. It also likes order and the feeling of being in control. “If you don’t have a cognitive map, a representation in the mind of how you are going to achieve it, then there is no way to sustain your goal.”

Our brains are lazy and like to conserve energy, so regular reminders and visual clues can be helpful. “I have a goal that I want to do 100 push-ups a day, It sounds like a good goal but it’s not enough to nudge me into action. In order to build it into my mind’s priority list, I leave Post-It notes around my house. As I walk in the door, there’s a cartoon of me doing push-ups. In the kitchen, there’s another one. Whenever I see one, I stop and do the push-ups.”

To clarify, a plan is: “I’m going to get up at 6.30 am Monday to Friday and write 500 words of my screenplay before I leave for work.” Or: “I’m going to sign up for 10 yoga classes and go every Monday at 6 pm.”

Pick one goal at a time

One problem with the resolution fever that grips us at this time of year is the temptation to go for a total life overhaul. “This year I’m going to give up alcohol. You are doing really well on all fronts. But then one evening you bump into an attractive colleague at the bus stop. “Fancy a drink?” Next morning, you have to deal with a blinding hangover and an unusually demanding boss. What can you do about such conflicts? Don’t work on multiple resolutions. Work on only one goal at a time. People who tried to work on a number of intentions at once were ultimately less successful at sticking to their plans.

To be continued