February is often the biggest stumbling block when it comes to making new year’s resolutions stick. Here are some useful tips Dr Claudia Herbert recently gave when asked about resolutions for a magazine feature on the topic

Having stayed motivated by a goal for the new year throughout January, February is often the crunch month when good intentions fall quietly by the wayside and old patterns and habits reassert themselves once more. If a resolution is still going strong by the end of this month, it is a good sign that it has found a way into an ongoing lifestyle which is, ultimately, the only way that changes can become lasting.

New Year health resolutions

“Often people have an idea of what they want to change, but without thinking about what they have to do to achieve it”

This is one of the key points made by Dr Herbert in the Yours Magazine article, in which a selection of psychologists were consulted on the topic. So often, the focus of a resolution is on the, hoped for, outcome but to be able to achieve this it’s important to become aware of the process involved in making a lifestyle change. By acknowledging that making a lasting change is rarely easy we validate the importance of spending some time preparing properly and so give ourselves the best chance of success.

Transtheoretical Model – Stages Of Change Model

The Transtheroetical Model, also known as The Stages Of Change Model, helps to illustrate the multiple stages involved when attempting fundamental lifestyle behavioural change.

Stages Of Change Model - The Oxford Devlopment Centre

  • Pre-contemplation

    Not Ready At this stage a person is unaware or in denial of a need or desire to change a given behaviour.

  • Contemplation

    Getting Ready This can be a challenging stage to move past. As a person becomes aware of the potential benefits of making a change, the costs can begin to stand out too. This conflict can create resistance to action. Opting for small-scale, clearly defined goals and creating Pros and Cons lists of the gains and sacrifices involved are both good strategies to help at this stage.

  • Preparation

    Ready At this point a person has embraced the idea of making a change in their life and it is time to put into place the infrastructure to help achieve their goal. This can come in the form of research, finding support groups or friends to emabark on the journey with, creating a schedule, preparing a journal to record successes and failures along the way and gathering a list of motivating statements as reminders of the original intention.

  • Action

    Moving Forward The stage at which a person has made specific overt modifications in their lifestyles towards achieving their goal. During this stage it is important that these actions are positively ackowledged and rewarded. Reinforcement and support are extremely important in helping maintain the action stage’s success.

  • Maintenance

    Managing and Preventing Drift This stage involves successfully avoiding former behaviors and keeping up new behaviors. Stimulus control can be an important factor at this stage, using reminders and cues that encourage healthy behavior and avoiding triggers that don’t. In this way, old habits can be replaced with more positive actions. It’s also important that rewards continue to be used when relapses into old behaviour patterns have successfully been avoided.

  • Relapse

    Navigating Roadblocks Relapses into previous patterns can be a feature in any process of major change. While they can lead to feelings of failure and frustration the key to success is to view them as learning tools to avoid the same issues moving forward. The best way to progress can be to start again with the preparation, action, or maintenance stages of behavior change. This might mean reassessing the resources and techniques used so far. Reaffirm motivation, plans of action, and commitments to the goal which was originally set. It’s very important to factor in new plans for dealing with any future temptations which lead to relapse the first time around.

I Want To Stop Smoking

New Year health resolutions - I want to stop smoking

Smoking was one of the resolutions which was highlighted in the magazine article mentioned earlier. While cutting highly addictive substances such as nicotine or alcohol from a lifestyle can be a challenge, understanding the Stages Of Change model can help with this too. In the magazine example, Dr Herbert recommended the following during the contemplation and preparation stage:

“With a deep-rooted habit such as this, spend some time thinking – or journaling – around ‘what consequences might there be if I give this up?’ ‘What might that habit have been fulfilling in me?’”

Creating Change Past February

Resolutions fail when the proper preparation and actions are not taken. By approaching your goal with an understanding of how to best prepare, the necessary actions to take and how to maintain a new behavior, you will be well placed to succeed. If you do falter, don’t be too hard on yourself or give up. Instead, remind yourself that the process of making a lifelong change is an ongoing and incremental one which can only be achieved with good foundation preparation and ongoing commitment and perserverance. Hopefully, the ideas here have given you the motivation to continue with your new year’s resolution throughout February and into the year beyond.