6 tips to keep your New Year’s resolutions on track

How are YOUR New Year’s resolutions going? Now is the time most of us start to drop off – but these 6 tips could help you stay on track

  • Dr Meg Arroll, is a psychologist for wellbeing brand Healthspan and author of The Shrinkology Solution 
  • Here she explores research-backed tips to keeping New Year’s resolutions  
  • By using psychological techniques, it’s possible to create new habits that last 

New Year’s resolutions…so easy to make, but for many of us seemingly impossible to keep.

Despite starting the year off with good intentions of eating healthier food, exercising more often and cutting back on alcohol and smoking, many of us struggle to maintain these promises for a full year.

In fact, a study of 2,000 adults by Healthspan found two thirds will often start a health kick with good intentions but they fall off the wagon on day 22 and the average.

We often try again three months later, yo-yoing between health kicks and unhealthy living four times a year, the survey revealed.

That amounts to the equivalent of eight years of a lifetime spent trying to stick with 252 different health kicks.

But there are many ways to conquer resolution breaking. 

By using a little insight and psychology, you can super-power 2019 with behavior change strategies that last.

1. Put on YOUR oxygen mask FIRST

Let’s face it – life is hectic. Apart from some of the longest working hours in the western world, we all have other responsibilities such as childcare, looking after aging relatives, not to mention trying to maintain relationships and friendships.

With all this on our plates, taking even 10 minutes a day for self-care can produce an enormous amount of guilt.

Many people are brought up to value giving, which is admirable but can leave us at best struggling to keep personal health resolutions, at worst burnt-out.

Your mental health is important: Evaluate each thought that stops you looking after yourself

A little reality-check is needed here – as cabin crew say before take-off ‘put on your oxygen mask first before you help others’ because you can’t keep all those plates spinning if you don’t first look after yourself.

To help enable this shift in mindset, check in with any limiting beliefs, e.g. ‘I can’t take any time for myself as XXX needs me’. 

Now challenge this belief. Is it 100 percent accurate? 

Be honest here and evaluate each thought that stops you looking after yourself.

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It’s time to be SMART about your resolutions – this means breaking them down into bite-size pieces.

Having an overall goal of ‘getting fit’ is rarely achieved because it’s too broad.

Instead, use the SMART method of breaking down each main goal into mini-goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Make small mini-goals every couple of weeks or every month to stay on track

For example, your first mini-goal for fitness could be: ‘I’ll go for a brisk 20-minute walk three times a week for two weeks,’ and then re-evaluate at the end of the fortnight and step-up to the next mini-goal.

This will help maintain motivation so that by the time you get to the end of 2019, the overarching goal has been reached.

3. Track the change – and celebrate your achievements

Tracking these SMART goals will also help to boost motivation when the going gets tough.

In terms of physical fitness, wearables are a great way to gauge improvements and keep resolutions on track.

Photo diaries, whether private or public, can also be a powerful tool to see how far you’ve come.

Keep a note of your goals and achievements and celebrate every milestone monthly

Then celebrate every milestone properly – with others if you can and this will increase a sense of self-worth and confidence.

So, tell someone you trust about your plan and think of healthy rewards such as a massage, cinema trip, day in the park – whatever it is that you like doing, just try to steer clear of food-based rewards!

4. Join the mob

One of the best predictors for maintaining any sort of health change is whether or not you have the support of others. 

This can come in the form of encouragement from family and friends, employing PT or coach, or simply joining others with similar health resolutions.

The motivation to keep up exercise if you’re going it alone can be tough after the first few weeks of the new year. 

For many of us, the thought of going for a solo run is definitely not appealing so it’s worthwhile to join others to keep motivation high.

Teaming up with other people can give you motivation to push yourself to the next level

Parkrun US (or Parkrun UK) are free events in gorgeous surrounding such as local parks and community areas. They are a great way to meet people and boost motivation. The new English Athletics local running groups are also an option, which you can check out by downloading an app or finding a local group via their website.

If your 2019 goal is weight loss, choose a program with a weekly meeting such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World – knowing you’re in a group that supports you, and who you also give vital encouragement to, will help you to keep on track.

5. Take steps to prevent the anti-climax

You may be awesome at Dry Jan, Stoptober and training for a sports comp with your bessie mates – but that’s often where the resolutions end.

The sense of achievement from meeting distinct, compartmentalised goals can be heady and feel almost addictive. But more often than not, there is a feeling of anti-climax, as everyone goes back to their normal routines – back on the booze, back to the same old conversations, back to stressing about life.

The key to maintaining resolutions is to remind yourself of the fundamental motivation for health and lifestyle changes.

A simple way to do this is to focus on why you want to fulfil this resolution – just ask yourself ‘why’?

Your first response may be a general ‘for my health’ so ask again – why? perhaps the answer would be ‘so I can provide for my family’?

The more your drill down to your core motivating factor, the easier it will be to link any smaller, discrete goals to your overall resolution.

6. REPLACE rather than try to quit bad habits

Our brains are tricksters – when we try not to think of doing something, we’ll immediately become preoccupied with the very thing we’re trying to avoid!

This is why many diets are doomed to fail unless the focus is on what you can eat, rather than what you can’t.

For any New Year’s resolution, whether it’s losing weight or reducing stress, the starting point is to take a careful and objective look at your habits – which daily activities prevent you from travelling the path towards your resolution?

What stops you from losing weight or reducing stress? Can you replace bad habits (i.e. fatty food or constantly being online) with other habits? Instead of sugar, try a sweet alternative. Instead of replying to all emails instantly, pick a specific time to go through them all

Do you always reply to every email that comes in, leaving little time to finish more substantial work? 

No wonder you’re feeling stressed or near burn out even though it’s only January.

Once you’ve identified these no-so-good habits, REPLACE them with health-supporting ones.

In this example, form a new habit of checking email in defined periods throughout the day because this type of low-priority, high frequency task not only consumes time, but also makes you feel constantly on-edge.


There are many reasons why new year’s resolutions fail but we can use some simple techniques to give ourselves the very best chance of success, no matter what the goal is.

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