Traditionally, New Year is the time to start afresh – a time to make New Year’s resolutions – a time to change all those habits that we wish we didn’t do – a time to loose weight, cut down on drinking, and go to the gym more often. We start the year with good intentions to improve ourselves, only to slip back into those bad habits a few weeks later.
The problem is that changing our bad habits is inevitably stressful. Our brains have got used to a certain way of life. Changing that way of life means that our minds have to change too – and that adds stress. This can be particularly difficult for those with anxiety or depression, because the additional stress can push them further into those conditions. And so it is almost inevitable that the resolutions fail.
The enemy of New Year’s resolutions is your subconscious mind. It does not like change. It finds change stressful. When you resolve to behave differently, the subconscious fights against it. It makes you forget, or makes you think of excuses of why you should forget the resolution today and start again tomorrow.
So here is my suggestion for a new approach to New Year’s resolutions:
I would like to achieve X
The first step is to state something positive that you want to achieve, rather than stating a new habit you want, or something you want to stop doing. So instead of saying, “I will go to the gym three times a week”, say, “I want to be fitter.” Instead of saying, “I will diet and loose weight”, say, “I want to fit comfortably into my summer clothes.”
When you state it in this positive, “I want to achieve …” form, your subconscious mind is much more likely to accept the idea. It adds far less stress to your life when you have an ambition, rather than an additional “rule” that you feel you “have to do”.
I believe it is possible to achieve X
The next thing is to check with yourself to make sure you really believe you can achieve it. You might say, “I want to look at the view from the top of Mount Everest.” While this is a great ambition to have, if, in your heart-of-hearts, you don’t really believe it is achievable, then your subconscious mind will not help you get there.
I can do Y that sets me off on the path to achieve X
The final stage is to decide on one small step that you can do that will set you off on the right path. It has to be something you know you can do without too much effort or stress. So if you want to get fitter, maybe your first step is to go for a short walk after lunch. If you want to fit into your summer clothes, maybe the first step is to eat more vegetables and less starch for your meal tonight.
Choose something that stretches you a little bit, but not too much. If that one action is not too much of a change, then your subconscious will not work against you.
Every so often (maybe once a day or once a week) do it all again. Remind yourself what you want to achieve and what life will be like for you when you achieve it. Check with yourself that you still believe it is possible, and choose another small task that will take you one step forward towards your goal.
Change is difficult, especially for those that struggle with anxiety or depression. But we need change in order to improve our lives – which is particularly important for those who are struggling.
If you have difficulty sticking with your New Year’s resolutions, then what you are doing doesn’t work … so do something else … have a go with the formula outlined above.
If you are still struggling making the changes that you need to, and you want some help, then you can always contact me. Here in my clinic in Fleet, I help people who are only just coping with anxiety and stress. I use hypnotherapy to help them regain control in their lives.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash