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It can be daunting when your list of New Year’s Resolutions is as long as your arm. In addition to the post-holiday blues, not being able to keep your resolutions by late January may increase your stress levels. After the holiday’s when the decorations have been taken down and packed away for another year.

When your holiday decorations are packed up and stored away, the frustration of an unused gym membership or other reminders of failed resolutions can make the later winter months feel hopeless.

However, it is important to remember that the New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes. It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behaviour and promise to make positive lifestyle changes.

Setting bite sized realistic goals throughout the year, instead of a one, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach what you are striving for. Recognising that you need to make positive lifestyle changes is the important factor and not the extent of the change that matters.

By making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that you will keep them throughout the year, incorporating healthy behaviour into your everyday life. Follow these tips when setting a New Year’s Resolution:

  • Start small — Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, take regular walks instead of hitting the gym hard 7 days a week. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.

  • Change one behaviour at a time — Unhealthy behaviours develop over time. Therefore, replacing unhealthy behaviours with healthy ones takes time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.

  • Talk about it — Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of co-workers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

  • Don’t beat yourself up — Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor setbacks when reaching your goals are completely normal. Don’t give up completely because you ate a chocolate bar and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

  • Ask for support — Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking support from family or friends who may be able to help keep you motivated.