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  • Rachel Crawford

New Year's resolutions - One week in!

week into 2023 and for some, a week into any New Year’s resolutions. Some of you may be feeling optimistic and even justifiably smug about the way you’ve begun your year. Others may be less so. Resolutions – New Year or birthday commitments to oneself - are sometimes called the ‘fresh start effect’ or ‘temporal milestone effect and have been adopted by many cultures: 1st century Romans used to make an “auspicious gesture” on 1 January by beginning the tasks they intended to complete throughout the year.

Research shows that most resolutions involve a wish to improve health, such as physical fitness, weight loss and changing eating habits. (Oscarsson). In reality, most know what they want to achieve but find it hard to know how to achieve and / or sustain their goals. One research study showed 77% of participants had maintained their resolution in the first week, dropping to 55% a month later and 43% at three months, 40% at six months, and 19% two years later. (Norcross and Vangarelli)

So what is the secret to long-term success in goal achievement?

Research shows that participants with approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals (58.9% vs. 47.1%). Approach orientation is focusing on the positives ‘best hopes, what are you already getting right?’ and ‘who else would they be pleased to notice these changes?’ Avoidance orientation means when we try to avoid failing: So promising ourselves “I’m going to give up sugar” is less likely to succeed than ‘I’m going to make a point of eating at least 5 to 7 fruits/vegetables a day. It helps to state what we want ‘in the presence of’ (a gut-friendly diet / more outdoor exercise), rather than the ‘absence of’ (quitting alcohol).

How do people measure the success of their resolutions?

Those with more global goals “I’ll be ‘to healthier” are more likely to consider themselves successful than those with a very specific resolution, eg “I’ll go to the gym twice a week”; the specific goal group are more likely to focus their attention on the times they only managed to go once a week and therefore experience a sense of failure and of not reaching their goal. Those with broader goals are more likely to notice their overall success, eg that they’re going to the gym much more often than they used to.

Buddying up: Working on a goal with someone is more successful than working towards a goal alone.

Using stimulus control: An example of stimulus control is when someone always eats popcorn in the cinema or always lights a cigarette after a meal, or perhaps always eats biscuits at work because they’re always in the coffee room. Changing exposure to the known stimulus can be as simple as a small change to routine, especially by selecting a specific, alternate pattern of behaviour. This can be enhanced by making a point of noticing when you successfully enact the new behaviour and feeling good about the difference doing so makes (see 'Self Reward').

Self-reward. Our brains love rewards (good old dopamine); the simple practice of acknowledging and quietly celebrating our small triumphs. The reward works as positive reinforcement and has a distinct behaviour-modification effect.

What else works? Understanding one’s own willpower. This is our ability to delay gratification (delayed reward) by overriding an unwanted or unhelpful thought or impulse and instantly replacing it with a more constructive or benign one. Spending time establishing a go-to list of these helps here, eg, picturing in detail what success in the achievement of your goal will look like, or even just focusing on ten people / places / things that you love and why.

What else works? Focusing on one resolution at a time. “One small step..”

If you’d like help in achieving any goal in 2023, it’s not too late. Whether it’s relationships, overcoming emotional disorders, honing sports competencies, and much more, Clinical Hypnotherapy can help. Contact me at or text, WhatsApp or phone 07876 642230 to find out how.

Wishing you everything wonderful in 2023 xx

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