Why? It’s January and that’s all there is to write about.

After our article on how best to get back into action with zest, vim, and most of all, perseverance, here we present another one on how to give those “New Year New Me” resolutions the best possible chance of success.

Personally I am not really a fan of New Year’s resolutions. More often than not, people use the 1st of January as an excuse to put off making changes in the days, weeks, and even months, leading up to the new year. It’s a widely spread, socially acceptable and condoned form of procrastination.

If you’re going to prolong your suffering, at least have the strength to admit that’s what you’re doing (I am by no means exempt of dawdling, as I write this on the eve of my deadline).

HOWEVER this does not mean that I don’t appreciate a chance to reset, and sometimes the end of a dark, dreary December, and the slow beginning of longer days promises all that we hope for: renewal! Rejuvenation! Revitalisation!

Since statistically speaking this is the time most people give up on their January abstentions or NY resolutions – if they haven’t already – I thought it might be good to see how we can keep the ball rolling up that hill for as long as possible (the numbers vary a little, but the common message endures: we're overly optimistic about what we can achieve. Don't get distracted by the other articles, this one is the best).

We’re all in this together, after all.

DO – be specific. If you give yourself some vague, lofty resolution such as “get healthy”, it provides so many different ways to fail. (Pessimistic, or realistic? Who’s to say.) The truth is, we could all be healthier, and there are many ways we could achieve this. You might think that by not setting any specific rules, you’re giving yourself the easy way out, allowing space for choice, and this might work for you. However, if you’re like me, you might flounder at the lack of black-and-white instructions. With no clear rules you easily fall into doing nothing, and are beset by the inevitable guilt that follows.

Example: Think about what you want to change, and how you can make this, if not an enjoyable, at the very least an easier task. Do you enjoy (or mildly appreciate) cooking? Cook two healthy meals a week, or recreate your favourite ‘unhealthy’ snacks with a slightly healthier alternative (I do this a lot with cake: bake with half the sugar, add fruit, whatever. Not sure it’s ‘healthy’, but baby steps). Walking? Set out to do one extended, or multiple short walks a week. Climbing? Club (doesn’t exist? Can you start one? Wake up your inner club-starter). Looking to work on your mental health? Schedule two minutes of meditation into your day, or three days a week. Wanting to spend less? Prepare two packed lunches a week, challenge yourself to find one free activity per month, or start a dinner party rota with your friends and bypass the restaurant (I was until recently a student, I could go on forever).

DON’T – overdo it. The previous paragraph hints at this. Set yourself manageable goals that you have the time, mental and physical energy to incorporate into your life. The more you overload yourself, the more you try to stuff as many items in to your to-do list, the more overwhelming and consequently, the more likely you will let it slip. Be realistic with what you can achieve, accept your limits and slowly grow with them. Whatever you can do, it’s okay. Maybe this time next year, you can do more.

DO – exercise self-compassion. Chances are you will slip up. This is okay. You are human and you are fallible. You might hate yourself for it, but remember, everyone would have you even more if you never made any mistakes.

DON’T – focus on fixing your flaws alone. Yes it’s always good to see how you can be better, and do better, but this also means creating time and space for positivity in your life. Is there anything you thoroughly enjoy that you don’t have enough time for? Do you miss going to the cinema, or drawing, or reading? No one will make these changes for you, and there IS enough time, no matter what everyone says (or what neoliberal capitalism will have you believe). Resolutions don’t always need to highlight the negative.

DO – get yourself a resolution buddy/ies. It can be really difficult, let alone boring, to enact all these changes on your own. It’s also far easier to give up if you have no one else to answer to. You can suffer, complain, or maybe even RELISH these new activities and experiences together.

DON’T – give yourself 50 new resolutions. This is similar to the “don’t overdo it” paragraph, but deserves it’s own, small little space. It’s very easy to fall into an “all or nothing” mentality, but those are incredibly arduous to maintain. You don’t need to fix everything, right here, right now (what would you even do if you ever managed to fix it all? I imagine intense ennui and monotony). You have the rest of your life! Remember: healthy cakes. Baby steps.

DO – let go of what you can’t change. Sometimes endlessly struggling against certain parts of our personality can be harder than just accepting that they’re there. If you’re not a morning person, and you try, try, try to bend your body to your mind’s will without success, maybe you are being counterproductive. Can you rearrange your timetable so it works for you? There is always a solution, tucked away somewhere. Mornings are for chumps anyway.

DON’T – forget to keep track of your progress. Remember instances of success, however small. Sometimes you need to practice to see them, we’re so used to seeing the worst in ourselves. Don’t take them for granted! We are rarely truly stagnant, we just need to be perceptive enough to see the changes, willing enough to recognise them, and patient enough to accept that nothing big happens in one single leap.

Healthy cakes. Baby steps.

(Maybe this can be our communal 2020 mantra)