The subtle art of setting New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions - Katy Bradshaw Acupuncture

It’s that time of year again – fireworks, champagne and New Year’s Resolutions.

Unfortunately New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously tricky to stick to.

Despite the fact the practice has been around in some form or another for 4000 years most of us seem unable to hold onto the grand plans we set ourselves on January 1st.

Perhaps because unlike our Babylonian ancestors, resolutions today tend to be about our relationship with ourselves rather than with the Gods.

It’s always easier to get out of a promise you’ve only made to yourself.


I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for a bit of self-improvement and done with gentleness, kindness, love, care and self-acceptance there is definitely something to be said for setting yourself a goal to work towards.

So how do you do it with any hope of success?

Be specific

The golden rule of resolution setting is to be specific. These are great ideas…

  • Lose weight
  • Get fit
  • Be kind
  • Eat more vegetables

But are all too vague. You will have no idea whether you’ve achieved any of it. Compare it to…

  • Eat one piece of fruit every day
  • Fill up half your dinner plate with vegetables
  • Start each day with a cup of hot water and lemon
  • Go for a 30 minute walk once a week
  • Give £10 to charity every month

Which are much more specific – you know what they are and ultimately whether you’ve done them.

Pick one thing

My personal number one tip for setting resolutions is to make one small change that you can do consistently.

If you want to improve your diet you might find committing to eating three meals a day (without any restrictions of what you eat) brings you closer to your goal than saying you’ll eat three meals, cut out pasta and bread, give up alcohol, eat less chocolate and eat five portions of vegetables a day.

All of these things are fine if that’s what you want to do but with too many things to focus on you’re much more likely to fail.

Make that thing your priority

And once you’ve chosen your thing – you kinda got to be unwavering about it. That’s why it needs to be small, specific and achievable.

There has to be no exception to the rule you’ve set. The little voice in your head that says ‘go on just eat that bit of chocolate today’ will go on and on and on.

You’ve got to be firm with it.

Anticipate hurdles

That said, is there something that’s likely to get in the way of your plan?

Giving up desserts but find it impossible to say no when you’re out for dinner? Eating more vegetables but love pizza night? Want to take up an early morning meditation practice but Saturday is your only chance for a lie in? Then build that in…

I won’t have a dessert after dinner unless I’m at a restaurant.

I’ll eat vegetables with dinner every day except on Fridays when it’s family pizza night.

I will meditate for 5 minutes every morning before the kids get up except on Saturdays when I have a lie in.

Ask yourself what success looks like

You may have decided that you want 2020 to be the year you get out there and make some new friends. So what happens when you join the local pilates class or WI and don’t speak to anyone the whole time you’re there. Have you failed? It depends on how you defined success.

Sometimes success is just getting out there and showing up.

Get support

Getting support from loving friends and family is a given – we all need people to champion our efforts when our commitment wobbles.

But sometimes it takes a little more.

Our relationship with ourselves is highly complex and any attempts to care for ourselves are often thwarted by old wounds and traumas that keep us stuck in destructive patterns of behaviour. If this is the case for you, it could be time to get some support from a therapist. You’ll find it much easier to show yourself love and care when you’ve started to heal some of those old wounds.

Be kind to yourself

After all is said and done, kindness is key.

It’s perfectly acceptable not to set yourself any goals and to practise complete self-acceptance. Let’s face it, we could all do with a bit more of that.

It’s also OK to fail. You may think failing to keep to your New Year’s Resolutions is out of the question but you know we do our best learning when things go wrong. It provides us with the chance to reflect, to learn, and how to get up and carry on.

Good luck!

Find out more information on how acupuncture can support you to keep your New Year’s Resolutions here.

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