Resolving to change

Less than two weeks in to January and already stories abound of those who have given up on their new year resolutions. Little surprise there! In fact what is more surprising is that this is seen as newsworthy. After all, statistics show that 25% of resolutions don’t last the week and fewer than 10% last to the end of the year.

For those who are still struggling on, the online and print media abound with helpful hints and tips. Some, such as how to frame the resolution in the first place, may be a little too late for those who have already given up. For example, if your goal was simply to get fitter in 2020, then it is of little use to be told that you should actually have resolved to reach a measurable fitness target such as run up stairs without having to stop part way, or complete a half marathon.

Nevertheless for those who are still struggling on it is not too late to retune targets and to set out measurable goals which can act as milestones along the way. It also might be worth considering one of the other top tips which is to clearly set out and understand why you have made your resolution rather than simply concentrating on what you intend to do.

Know yourself is an important element of finding ways to reach your goals. When you understand your own motivators you can find ways to help you stick to the plan, whether that be sharing the goal with friends, setting rewards for yourself or simply documenting your ongoing achievements.

Handy hints such as these don’t just apply to those undertaking New Year resolutions. They can be equally valid for those who are undertaking other potentially life affecting challenges such as recovery from an illness, fall or operation. It is here that health professionals can help to make a measurable difference.

In a busy health practice it can be all too easy to concentrate on the mechanics of recovery; setting out an exercise regime to be followed or suggesting a healthy eating plan. But taking a little extra time to help patients to understand why the recovery plan is important and providing measurable milestones along the way can help patients to stick to the recovery pathway. Equally importantly, if recovery is expected to take some time then being open about timescales can help to prevent patients becoming discouraged along the way.

Perhaps most importantly of all patients should be helped to understand that one failure is no reason to stop trying. Habits can be hard to build, easy to break. So patients should be encouraged to use the odd slip up as an additional motivator towards recovery rather than as a reason to give up. This is particularly true when recovery is likely to take some time. Those looking to build lifetime habits may find that it takes months to change existing patterns of behaviour. So an occasional lapse is only to be expected. Helping your patients to resolve to change is as important as giving them the tools to do so.