If you believe what you read in the papers, this coming week is when we're supposed to feel at our most miserable.
Blue Monday looms large on the calendar and we'll feel most like jacking in our New Years resolutions around 17th - settling down with a family sized bar of Dairy Milk and sobbing into our third glass of red, as we bemoan the fact it's all gone horribly wrong and we'll never *lose weight/control our drinking/be happy (*insert source of misery here). But I'm not about to let that happen for you!
Here are my top 10, scientifically proven, brain-based tips to keep you on track so you can smash those 2018 goals once and for all (you're welcome!).
1. Create meaningful goals
Think about why it is you want to succeed and focus your goals around the things you really care about. For example, if you want to cut down your drinking, 'I want to drink a bit less' isn't a very powerful motivator.
Coming up with a list of reasons why drinking less would benefit you adds far more value to your goal - e.g. 'I want to be healthier, I want to feel better in the mornings, I want to have better control over my emotions'.
Spend a bit of time writing down as many long-term benefits as you can and you'll really get off to a great start!
2. Be specific
The more detailed you make your picture of success, the easier it is for your subconscious mind to help you achieve it. What are your very best hopes for the future? When do you want this to happen? How would life be different if those hopes were realised? What can you do today that moves you one little step closer to that goal? Let your imagination run wild! It's a bit like using your internal SatNav - the more specific you can be about the final destination, the easier it is for your mind to plot the route without you having to programme in the directions as you go.
3. Imagine you're already there
Your imagination is an incredibly powerful thing - use it as a force for good!
One of the best ways to get exactly what you want is simply to imagine those changes have already happened and you're living the new life you desire. This isn't just wishful thinking - we know that the subconscious brain can't tell the difference between imagination and reality - imagining is as good as being!
When we use our thoughts to tell ourselves "one day, when things are different I'll..." we're reinforcing the message that we aren't there yet and we create barriers to change. If we pretend we've already arrived at our goal though, we automatically start behaving and thinking in ways that reinforce that new path - and attract more of the good stuff.
4. See any slip ups as opportunities, not failures
Success isn't a one-chance thing - as any successful person will tell you, it comes from keeping going even when things don't go to plan.
If we slip up and have a 'bad' day, the temptation is to throw in the towel, beat ourselves up about our 'failure' and decide it's not even worth trying. In fact, we're hard-wired to do this as our subconscious mind is secretly a little bit afraid of success and the change it might bring.
The trick is to see any slip ups as not that big of a deal - as hurdles rather than walls. So what if things didn't go to plan once, all the other work you've put in is way more important!
Instead of giving up, use it as a chance to reflect on what has gone well so far, and how you might do things a bit differently next time to keep progressing.
5. Focus on thrive, not deprive
When we're trying to adopt better habits, the first thing that springs to mind is usually all the things we'll miss about our old ways. Those negative thoughts sets up a pattern of obsessing and feeling bad - making you want the 'forbidden' things all the more and usually resulting in giving in and feeling even worse about yourself!
Turn it around: focus on the benefits of the amazing thing you're trying to accomplish and the small, manageable, positive steps you can build in to get you there. For example, instead of focusing on cutting out all bad snacks, tell yourself you'll make sure you get your 5 a day as a priority. You'll be so focused on the good thing, chances are you'll eat fewer less healthy snacks anyway - and if you have the odd one it really doesn't matter as you've not 'let yourself down'.
A happier mind leads to sustainable lifestyle changes that really will make the difference in the long run!
6. Slowly but surely wins the race
Wouldn't it be amazing if you could suddenly wake up and find all your bad habits have gone? If there were some sort of magic wand you could wave that would mean that as of tomorrow, you would have no problem sticking to that diet, exercise regime or plan? There's just one teeny problem... sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but... brains don't work like that!
To create permanent change in our thought patterns, we need repetition. We also need to be absolutely committed to our goal for the long-term, which means edging towards it slowly rather than trying to change too much at once.
Being on our 'best behaviour' for a bit but secretly craving the day we can let loose again just leads to feeling denied, temptation and failure! This is why so many people manage to lose weight on a diet plan then put it all back on again, or manage to stay dry for a bit only to go back to binge drinking immediately afterwards.
You're far more likely to succeed if you take little, manageable steps towards the new you and keep repeating them. Just change one little thing at a time, do it until it becomes a habit, then work on the next thing.
7. Reflect on your achievements
You might be surprised to hear that positive reflection is really, really important in maintaining a healthy mindset and keeping our eye on the ball. Goals can be all-consuming - but surprisingly, focusing on your end goal and nothing else can be counterproductive, leading to mental blocks that slow you down, take you off course or stop you entirely.
Noticing the positives in our lives activates certain areas of the brain, helping us subconsciously attract more of the same. It also connects us with our 'solution focused' mode, driving new ideas and realisations.
How often do you actually stop to give yourself a pat on the back, notice what you've achieved and appreciate the great things already in your life? Time to start!
8. Talk about it