Quitter’s Day is here. The end of the second week of January where it fells like pretty much everyone at least *considers* up on the positive goals they set out to make their new reality on January 1.
And it’s not really surprising – the weather is still pretty gloomy, the days are short, and Christmas has been and gone. It’s definitely tempting to think: would it really matter if I gave up on my good intentions, just for a bit?
And while that is definitely OK, if you really want to try sticking it out this year, here’s how you can resist the dreaded giving-up-curse.
Make sure your goals are realistic
Dr Katie Tryon, behaviour change expert and director of health strategy at Vitality, explains that, one reason many people give up is because “we overestimate our ability to achieve certain resolutions” – and don’t plan for facing challenges.
She also suggests that people may drop their resolutions because of a “phenomenon called hyperbolic discounting” – where we “choose smaller, immediate rewards over larger later ones”.
For instance, choosing to skip the gym for a day and being rewarded with TV, rather than looking at the more long-term goal of improving your fitness overall.
Dr Tryon says that unless you apply incentives early on, it’s difficult to encourage yourself to look at the big picture.
Dr Tryon says these are “far easier to estimate the effort required to achieve them and easier to plan for in our normal day to day life, so this overcomes any issues of overconfidence and poor planning.”
She suggests making a string of incentives to keep you motivated as you move towards your end goal.
“Small and consistent short term changes can result in habit formation, which is the key to long term behaviour change,” she explains.
Don’t put so much pressure on January
January does seem like the perfect time to think about how to improve yourself in the year ahead, as you most likely have some spare time on your hands.
But, resolutions can be introduced at any point in the year – as Dr Tryon points out.
She adds: “It’s important not to set resolutions at midnight on New Year’s Eve and expect to be meeting the goals in January – this is unrealistic and you’re more likely to give up or be left feeling deflated.”
Dr Tryon advises: “Go easy on yourself as you ease into the first month of the year and set yourself more of a timeline – good change doesn’t happen all at once. Importantly, ensure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound).”
How to beat that disheartened feeling
Micro-resolutions will make you feel better, as you are more likely to stick at them, according to the expert.
“Make sure incentives are aligned so that you get rewarded for the small changes that you make. Slowly build these up over time to achieve the level of activity you would like to get to,” Dr Tryon says.
And try to work with your strengths – if you are a morning riser, try to do your most challenging resolution then. But if you are a morning snoozer, don’t try that until you feel like the new habit is firmly under your belt.
“Is it because you really want it for yourself for health, mental health or wellbeing reasons, or is it something you feel you should be doing? There’s a big difference between a ‘should’ and a ‘want to,’” she said. “To succeed with our goals, they need to be something we really want.”
Winter calls for us to take greater care of ourselves and each other at this time of year, from our health and homes to our headspace and matters of the heart. Whether you’re seeking motivation or hibernation, HuffPost UK’s Winter Well series is here to help you through the short days and the longer months.