People have been pledging New Year self-improvement for thousands of years (ancient Babylonians first made start of year promises back in 1894 BC).
And the trend caught on. Last year, more than 20% of UK adults said they would be making resolutions for the year ahead.
Celebrity resolutions this year include Meghan Markle’s annual pledge to “stop biting my nails, stop swearing and re-learn French”, while Kim Kardashian wants to “be on my phone less and be more in the moment”.
In 2017, Britons keen to make a change vowed to eat better, exercise more and spend less money, according to a YouGov poll.
Top 10 New Year resolutions
1.Lose weight – 48%
2. Exercise more – 41%
3. Save more money – 32%
4. Improve diet – 31%
5. Something else – 22%
6. Pursue a career ambition – 15%
7. Spend more time with family – 14%
8. Take up a new hobby – 12%
9. Decorate at home – 11%
10. Cut down on alcohol – 9%
However, while many embark on their New Year to-do Lists with vigour on 1 January, the majority are broken just days later.
In 2017, one in five people failed to keep to all of their resolutions in just the first week.
So what is the key to sticking to your resolutions and achieving your aims?
Sky News chatted to three experts – a psychologist, a doctor and a fitness expert – to get their top five tips on achieving your goals in 2018.
Psychologist Emma Kenny:
1. Pick out the top five things you want to achieve – then prioritise them.
Focus on one goal at a time and work on that fully before moving on. For example, don’t resolve to “get a whole new body” – instead pledge to lose a dress size by March, and thereafter lose 2lbs every month. By setting milestones and time-bound goals, you stand a much better chance of success.
2. It’s natural to slip up – but don’t let minor setbacks crush your plans.
If one day you don’t make it to the gym, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t use it as an excuse to beat yourself up and eat the cake in the cupboard. Instead, change your mindset and turn it into a definitive “critical moment”. Fit in a five-minute walk instead and get back to your gym routine tomorrow.
3. Reward yourself for success.
Don’t think of what you’re giving up, but what you’re gaining. For example, if you’re giving up smoking, save all the money you would have spent on cigarettes and spend the money on a holiday at the end of the year.
4. Buddy up with a partner – they can reinforce your resolution and share in your pain.
Appoint an accountability manager – a relative or a good friend who wants to see you succeed – you stand a much better chance of succeeding with someone keeping an eye on your progress.
5. It’s not always about giving something up.
Your resolution can be to start something new – a pottery class or salsa dancing. The key is for it be something fun and constructive, plus you get to learn a whole new skillset at the same time.
Fitness expert Laura Williams:
1. Don’t ditch your favourite treat/tipple at the same time as embarking on a new exercise regime.
You’ll feel fabulous and empowered on day one, but by day 14 you’ll be dreaming of Domino’s under the duvet. Undertake one thing at a time if you’re in it for the long haul.
2. Get fitness savvy fast.
Do a little bit of research before you hit your post-Christmas bod with daily HIIT sessions. Is the nausea-inducing burpee really where you need to be? Or would a well-rounded routine that ticks multiple fitness boxes and which you can sustain week in, week out be a better fit?
3 Think feel-good factor on every level.
Yes, the spinning studio makes for a good selfie and will help to whittle your waistline but having a goal to keep fitness sociable will help keep you feeling excited and optimistic about exercise. You can even fit altruism into your routine with a running club like GoodGym, which combines exercise with community projects.
4. Have a “dream goal” and a “settle-for” goal.
Two goals are crucial for navigating your way to long lasting change. Losing two stone for Valentine’s Day is a big ask; initially committing to lose a couple of pounds a week, for at least six weeks through diet and exercise will get you good results that you’ll be happy with.
5. Pay attention to the maths as much as the macros.
Calorie counting is making a comeback as we realise that all the coconut oil and cardio in the world won’t get us to where we want to go shape-wise if the maths don’t add up. A little awareness around the energy content of what you’re eating versus the energy expenditure of what you’d doing is often enough to result in some serious shape-shifting. So don’t burn your takeaway menus just yet.
Doctor Ellie Cannon:
1. People often aim too high when setting fitness goals.
An example is signing up for a gym and then planning to go four times a week. Aiming lower is not copping out. In fact walking for 30 minutes, five times a week could actually be better for you.
2. Sleep is underappreciated.
If you’re aiming for a less stressful 2018, improving your sleep quantity and quality can do wonders for your mental health. Aim for a couple of early nights per week and see how it makes you feel. You will be surprised at how much better you feel once you are getting enough sleep.
3. Be proactive.
In the UK we tend to be reactive about our well-being, rather than embracing preventative healthcare. Check if you’re due any vaccinations or check-ups. Women can get up to date with smear tests, men over 65 should book aneurysm tests. Now’s the time for asthma check-ups, NHS over-40 health checks and flu jabs too.
Social media and online connectivity are good things in many ways, but they are also disruptive of relationships and can be damaging to mental health. It is unrealistic to cut yourself off from all social media, but a small reduction is doable. Ring fence one hour per day when you disconnect – maybe first thing in the morning or during your journey to work – and read a book instead.
5. Conduct a friendship audit.
Isolation and loneliness are bad for both your physical and mental health. Taking time to reconnect with people who make you feel good and nurture your resilience is a powerful thing to do, and will set you up for the year.
With forward planning, a little will-power and plenty of determination, 2018 could be the year you achieve your goals. Good luck!