For many people across the world, heralding in the New Year signals the perfect time to overhaul your unhealthy habits and start afresh. However, according to psychologist Beatty Cohen, this time of the year can cause a lot of disappointment and self-shame for people who continuously struggle to put their New Year’s resolutions into motion.
While the Christmas season can be a time of joy and peace, for many people it can also highlight the painful or destructive aspects of our lifestyle that we would like to change. This may be especially pertinent on Boxing Day, when the consequences of alcohol or drug use or addiction is felt both physically and psychologically. When New Year’s Eve rolls around, we convince ourselves that the New Year brings a fresh start, and we can transform our lives. However, despite our best intentions on December 31st, a study found that around 88% of people committed to resolutions have given up by February, and only 8% of people achieve their New Year goals at all.
Cohen says that the first step in keeping your New Years resolution is making one. “Each person has to decide for him or herself what is really a priority,” she says. It is important that people can see beyond the destructive effects of the issue, and forward to the long-term benefits of recovery.
Those who experienced long term achievement of their New Years resolutions had set plans, suggests Cohen. “What are some of the things [you] actually have to do action wise to ensure [change] is actually going to come about?” she asks. “There has to be a plan of action.”
A 2015 study revealed that the most common New Years resolution is weight loss and exercise, accounting for approximately 69% of all resolutions made. With food usually being a central component of the Christmas festivities, you are certainly not alone if this time has made you acutely aware of your widening waistline or unhealthy eating habits.
One of the personal trainers at The Banyans, Tristan Botha, is well aware of the relationship between physical exercise and lifestyle transformation. He says that despite the statistics, there really is no huge industry secret to healthy lifestyle recovery.
Similar to Cohen, Tristan says that “it is incredibly important that people know why they are going to make the change.” He also reiterates the importance of being very honest with yourself during this process, especially when figuring out why you want to achieve your goals, and what you are willing to do to get there.
Tristan explains that to maintain motivation over an extended length of time – and hence implement a long lasting lifestyle change – you must be able to reach short, clear milestones that track you closer to your eventual goals. “You should set yourself a series of short milestones, either thirty, sixty or nighty days. Your goals should also be specific.”
Tristan notes that people who want rapid results often lose faith in themselves, and quickly give up because their health and wellness goals simply feel too far out of reach. “When it comes to our health and getting results, we can become short sighted and jump erratically from idea to idea,” he says. Research on habit formation emerging from the University of University College London supports the long road to lasting success, reporting that overturning a habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, depending on the individual.
“You have the power to make the changes you need to succeed,” encourages Tristan. “You can develop healthy habits and grow the leader in you to take you to your optimum health, you just have to keep going.”
Dr Christian Rowan is the Medical Director and addiction specialist at The Banyans. He often says that relapse is a part of recovery, however many people with addictions [such as disordered eating, drugs or alcohol] often abandon their efforts towards recovery because they make one mistake and give up. He suggests that people often require three or four serious attempts before they reach a goal.
Dr Rowan notes that support and encouragement are essential in achieving a goal. Often this support can come from a spouse, close friend, or therapist. At the same time, people can use lack of support as an excuse to give up.
Senior psychologist at The Banyans, Peter Hayton, reminds us to avoid a “one size fits all mentality”, because “the way you approach your recovery journey is unique to your personality, your experiences and your position in life.” He emphasizes the need to use strategies that are going to work for you.
Peter says that many people feel like they are not able to manage the important changes in their lives on their own, especially when it comes to overcoming addiction, depression or anxiety. “The personalized, comprehensive program at The Banyans Health and Wellness Centre can provide the support and encouragement you require to achieve lasting success.”
The Banyans is a private, healthcare residence that provides medical support and rehabilitation for people experiencing substance abuse, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, gambling addictions, burnout, chronic stress, trauma and PTSD. Call 1300 BANYAN (1300 226 926) for a non-obligatory, confidential discussion, or completing this online form.
 Fox News (2013). Political Outlook for 2014; New Report Out on Identity Theft; Stock Market Outlook for 2014; The Psychology of New Year’s Resolutions; New Laws. Finance Wire.
 Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H. and Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), pp.998-1009.