It’s a new year and often times this is a great time for evaluating how we are doing and setting some health resolutions.  There is a lot of helpful advice out there on how to set health resolutions. But keeping them can be the hard part. You may focus on making the change in January, it gets harder in February and by March you find you’re not doing very much. Then you may start ‘beating yourself up’ and sometimes that doesn’t end. Not good.

You stop making the change becomes the preferred option so the battle against yourself ends. But then guilt creeps in. The what if’s, the could have’s, the feeling of failure, not being good enough, the hope… These feelings hang around in the background but are ever present.

Change isn’t always easy and straightforward and actually, that is really normal. Some stuff I learned about neuroscience explains that and I share it with you to help you make the change you want for yourself happen and make it stick.

5 principles to make your health resolutions happen and make them stick

Change requires consistency and the 5 principles, which reinforce one another, help make this happen.

  1. Motivation/ Emotion
  2. Commitment
  3. Discipline
  4. Structures
  5. Practice and self-compassion

Change needs consistency and how you can make that happen for yourself. B Babcock 2016

1. Use your motivation and emotion to get you started and keep you going

This is your desire to make a change and the positive emotions that go with that. This gets you started but can be fickle and may not last long. The reason is that motivation and emotion come from the Limbic part of our brain. But Limbic also looks for the problems with the change we want to make. So Limbic can keep us in this vicious circle of wanting to make change but finding reasons not to take action. Hence why so many people purchase a gym membership and then find reasons not to go.

Asking yourself what you will gain and lose if you make the change and if you don’t, can help you and Limbic get out of that vicious circle. Sometimes we will lose something we didn’t realise we valued so much when we make a change. This hidden desire can often stop us from making the change we want. So get clear on what that is for you by using these helpful questions.

pros and cons of making change

Will the gains of making your change outweigh the gains of doing nothing? Drawn by B Babcock 2017

2. Strengthen your commitment to your health resolutions

This keeps you going. It develops over time as you take action to make your change happen. If your action is of a size that is easy to take and achieve, you are more likely to take it. And so develop your commitment.

3. Use discipline to maintain and build your commitment to your health resolutions

Now you need to maintain the commitment to making your change happen. Discipline helps here. Discipline is about saying yes to the things you want to say yes to and things you want to say no to. You develop discipline through practice, thereby strengthening your commitment. And to do that, keep the change small.

4. Implement support structures to keep you on track

These are the support mechanisms you put in place to help you make change. They can be the support of family and friends, favourite quotes, alarms, apps that provide an element of competition, your savings, and so much more.

5. Practice and exercise self-compassion

Practice and self-compassion are the glue holding these pillars to the seat of consistent change. With practice comes discomfort and mistakes. That is the natural order of things when you are learning.

Remember, you weren’t born knowing how to walk. You fell down a lot in the process of learning. And when you fell, people around you applauded you for your effort and helped you back up. Eventually, you learned to get yourself back up, walk, and then run and skip.

As you are making the change you want for yourself, feeling any discomfort and making mistakes, remind yourself that you are learning, ask yourself what specifically you are learning, and implement that learning. That is self-compassion in action. And make sure your support structures appreciate your effort and help you up when you fall down.

If you find you want to make change but are not taking action, use the higher order functioning of your pre-frontal cortex to have a dialogue with the rogue thoughts and emotions that want to take you away from making the change you want.

Ask them what their need is. Negotiate a new role they can play in helping you achieve the change you want. Or if they are being completely stubborn and you cannot find a way to give them a productive role, send the rogue emotions and thoughts away on the never-ending best holiday of their life.

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Sending rogue emotions away on a never-ending holiday. B Babcock 2016

Also, when you engage in the new thing you are doing for yourself, pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings just before you start and while you are doing it. This enables you to learn more about how you are positively helping yourself and you can call on these thoughts and feelings as you engage in the new activity in the future.

Here’s a summary on how to make your health resolutions happen in 2017

Make sure your health resolutions are right for you. The upsides of making the change outweigh the upsides of doing nothing or what you may lose by making the change. This is key!

Keep the change small, and so easily achievable. Once you achieve it, then look at the next step.

Practice practice practice.

Choose support structures you love and are truly helpful to you.

Lean into the discomfort and mistakes that come with practice and trust yourself to learn from them and come out the other side.

Lastly, change can take time. That is ok. My new year’s resolution from last year, which I steadily took action, is continuing into this year too.

What’s it like for you?

Have you set any health resolutions yet this new year? What have you planned to maintain discipline and build your commitment? What support structures will you put in place? Feel free to share them here and together we can support one another.

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

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