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The Kardashians Can Help Your New Year's Resolutions

29/12/2016 15:48 GMT | Updated 30/12/2016 09:46 GMT
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Despite our solemn oaths, experts estimate that 25% of us will abandon our new year's resolution by the first weekend in January. By January's third (or Blue) Monday, the fail figure rises to 50%.

Researchers often refer to this failure as 'False Hope Syndrome', when a person overestimates their willpower and sets an overly ambitious, unachievable goal. In the end, only some 8% of us will succeed in any new year's resolution. And getting fit is about the worst for drop-off.

New Year's resolutions are a little-researched phenomenon, but evidence suggests there is such a thing as a "fresh start effect" - a short window when our willpower sharpens. But setting too-ambitious goals when the days are cold, dark, short and miserable and you're setting yourself up for a fall.

However, behavioural economics work by Katherine Milkman Ph.D, an assistant professor at the Wharton School at Penn, shows that "Temptation Bundling" could be a great psychology hack - and I believe the UK could use it to its advantage. Temptation Bundling is tying together two activities: one behaviour that's good for you but difficult to maintain (such as exercise or diet) and one behaviour that's fun and easy but not strictly good for you (watching junk TV or gorging on social media).

My experience has long suggested that allowing yourself to indulge your guilty pleasures during or after healthier or goal-orientated activity makes a person more likely to stick with difficult projects, because new psychological associations start to take hold. If your guilty pleasure is watching The Kardashians, then forbid yourself to watch it unless you're on a treadmill. The same goes for dieting: tell yourself you can only watch Judge Rinder if you've had a salad, and new associations will take shape in your brain. It's a reward for mind and body as you build healthier activity into a balanced routine.

My tip for 2017 is to use Temptation Bundling to your advantage: couple the healthy with the indulgent - and keep it balanced - to maximise your chances of smashing new year goals.

And to help you keep focus, here's a few more mental tips to keep your resolution in context.

Small steps are key

Make sure that you set yourself achievable, realistic goals. "False Hope Syndrome" means making major life overhauls that are too much too soon. So break down your goals into manageable daily pieces - and remember to reward any small wins. Try "Temptation bundling", and only allow yourself guilty pleasures during or after a decent, safe workout.

Set realistic goals

Write down your goals being both specific, and realistic. Health magazines might promise six week abs but the majority of us work busy, tiring jobs - so that's ludicrously unachievable, not to mention unsafe. Keep your expectations real and healthy.

Do it for you - not for them

It's important for you to constantly review the motivation that lies behind your goals to keep it fresh. I believe people should get fit and stay healthy because they love their body, not because they hate it. Or because they want someone else to notice.

Be kind to yourself

There's an old prayer that suggests we accept the things we cannot change and find courage to change the things we can. IF your circumstances don't allow you to keep the kind of diet and exercise regime you'd ideally like, work with it and do what you can. Change the things you can, and don't stress about the things you have no control or power over.

Listen to your inner voice!

Experience tells me that most people know when they're about to over-indulge or if they're avoiding activity that's good for them - maybe you feel a jolt inside or you get a naughty feeling. Now is the time to listen to that voice, or instinct, when it's trying to keep you on the straight and narrow. When it says don't sleep in then seize the day. When it says don't skip breakfast, have a banana.