How to ensure you stick to your new year's resolutions

Most people's new year's vows don't make it past January - this year can be different and the experts tell us how

Joyce Feegan

By the end of the cold, dull month of January, 92pc of resolutions are dead on arrival.

That is not some bubblegum statistic – that is according to a survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Researcher Dr John Norcross, who also published his research in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, found that about 50pc of people make resolutions each New Year and top of the list are ones relating to weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking and better money


As with most things in life it is not what we do but how and why we do it that can make the difference between success and failure.

We have looked at some of the most popular resolutions; stopping smoking, losing weight, sticking to a hobby, sorting out your money woes and taking a digital detox and spoke with experts about how to turn your words into action.

Weight loss

As is the certainty of death and taxes, dieting is also a confirmed lose-lose game. Reaching one’s set-point weight comes about because of a well-maintained metabolic rate, which is generated by keeping the fire stoked – in other words, eating regularly.

Dieting works off deprivation as opposed to eating well and having a life.

What is more, it can lead to obsessive thoughts about food and worse eating disorders.

Marie Campion, author of Hope: Understanding Eating Distress (Eating Disorders) and Director of the Marino Therapy Centre in Dublin, says that dieting leads to “trouble.”

“Generally with dieting the more we do it the more trouble we are in.

“In the New Year it creates a sort of double disappointment because dieting never works. And in the New Year there’s an emotional excitement to it and then you get disappointed in yourself,” explains Ms Campion.

Instead she advises balance and the simple act of listening to your body.

“Dieting creates obsessions because you are depriving yourself. It’s all about balance.

“On the mental level, even with the language, we say ‘I won’t do that’, or ‘I can’t have that,’ and on a physical level, we are depriving ourselves and destroying our metabolic rate instead of listening to the body,” she adds.

Ms Campion notes that as opposed to vowing to weight loss people should commit to respecting their bodies all year around.

“See the New Year as a time to get excited and not to punish the body. If you want to make a resolution, decide to treat your body respectfully for the whole year, if you want to be slim you need to listen to your body,” she says.

Digital detox

You fall asleep with your phone in your hand and it is not because of a late-night call to your nearest and dearest. You step out into oncoming-traffic because you are checking how many people liked your ‘selfie’ from this morning’s bus journey. And instead of listening to your friend tell you about their up-coming job interview over coffee you are too busy texting your other friend to arrange another coffee date.

It is time to step out of the online world and back into reality.

Child psychotherapist Joanna Fortune has witnessed the rapid growth of our internet use firsthand through her work with young clients.

“The average teenager is checking their social media between 60 and 120 times a day, which may sound shocking, but this is not just a teenage phenomenon, with many studies citing adults spending in excess of ten hours a week on social media,” explains the psychotherapist.

She says that internet addiction is now a recognised addiction.

“We are becoming tech-obsessed with over 500 million tweets sent each day and 1.28 billion people declared regular Facebook users. Addiction to social media is now a recognised condition with many addiction clinics offering treatment programmes for it,” adds Ms Fortune.

Addiction or over-use - she advises that everyone can do with a bit of time-out and cooling off from their smart phones in the New Year.

“Whether you think you are addicted or not I think we could all do with switching our phones off a bit more and switching our real life engagement on a bit.

“When I do school talks I issue a challenge to teens that I would encourage people to take on this year as a New Year’s Resolution: turn your phone off (or disable internet access) from 8pm to 8am or 8am-8pm (depending on your lifestyle), each day for a month and take note of how your mood, sleep and overall behaviour changes as a result,” advises Ms Fortune.

Quitting smoking

Smoking is a chemical addiction to nicotine but it does not stop there unfortunately. There are also a rainbow of myths that keep you smoking.

Apparently the one cigarette simultaneously relaxes you and relieves boredom too. While stopping smoking can seem like hell on earth if you go cold turkey, withdrawals from nicotine are actually so mild that they do not even wake the heaviest of smokers up at night.

You do not need to smoke, you just think you do. Allen Carr invented the Easyway to Stop Smoking and published his book, with the same name, 30 years ago this year.

It has sold 13 million copies so far.

Director of the Irish branch, Brenda Sweeney, says that stopping smoking does not have to be hard.

“Stopping smoking is easy if you go about it the right way, Allen Carr’s Easyway has a different approach in that we don’t use any aids or gimmicks, we do remove the myths and illusions surrounding smoking and more importantly we remove the fears associated with stopping smoking,” she says.

“Other methods like NRT (nicotine-replacement therapy), beware they contain nicotine, and cold turkey may get cigarettes out of your mouth but not out of your head, whereas Easyway does,” she adds.

Sticking to a sport

Another popular New Year’s resolution can be to take up a sport or acquire a new skill but often we book ourselves in for class but fail to show up on the day.

Fitness consultant and motivational speaker Pat Henry (below) advises people that if they want to take up a new sport, then slow and steady will win the race.

“There are three things I would recommend if you want something to stick. If it’s exercise, then do the exercise in the morning. Exercise gets shoved down the priority list. Get exercising early in the morning, get it finished early and you will have increased energy,” he explains.

In terms of taking up a new sport, for example, the second thing he recommends is to find a buddy.

“The only way to do it, say someone wants to take up rowing, get a training partner, make a committment, that’s the motivation you need to get out on the Liffey early in the morning. Find someone you know, or go to one of the clubs, everyone’s looking for a good training partner,” says the fitness expert.

And the third thing he advises is to not declare your goal to the world at large as it only sets you up for failure.

“They tell people they’re going to do x, y, z and then people say: ‘oh that will last a week.’ Don’t go around telling people what you’re doing, people can be negative. Let your mind alone focus on your goal,” says Pat.

And finally, get a life.

“Slow and steady is the way to do it, people who are training three and four hours a day don’t have any advantage. Get your job done and get a life. Do your own thing and don’t be spending half an hour looking in the mirror,” he adds.

Sort finances

Whether your taste is more expensive than the value of your wallet or whether you are as frugal as possible but you always find yourself stretched to the pin of your collar on the eve of pay-day - financial planning can ease the stress when it comes to money woes.

“Planning is the fundamental backbone of any project in which you wish to succeed,” says John Lowe, author of the best-seller the Money Doctor and Personal Insolvency Practitioner.

“Budgeting is an essential part of that planning process and especially at the start of the year for singles and families.

“Remember if your expenditure exceeds income, you have three choices: cut costs, earn more or prioritise,” he advises.

If you know you’ll spend later in the year (birthdays, holidays, Christmas) why not start saving now and include it as part of your monthly outlay,” he adds.

In terms of tips the money expert says that checking in regularly on your current account will help you stay on the straight and narrow.

“Planning and budgeting is a marathon not a sprint.

“Regularly checking your monthly cash flows will in itself keep you on track or if you have to adjust, allow pre-planned options come into play,” he states.