New Year, New You? – Forming Healthy Habits That Last

Did you begin the new year with lots of good intentions and a long list of resolutions? How are you getting on? Maybe you’ve already ‘failed’ and given up? You’re not alone, that’s for sure. Statistically, around one quarter of people give up their resolutions after just one week, while fewer than one in 10 will maintain their goal to the end of the year.

Small Steps Lead to Big Change

Although we’re told January 1st is a good time to overhaul our lives, forming healthy habits takes time. Research shows breaking big changes down into small, realistic steps is more likely to help you reach your goal than drastic changes that don’t last. Just think of all the January gym memberships that are never used! If your goal is to get fit, you may have more success adding a weekly run to your schedule instead of resolving to lift weights every day.


As well as taking small steps, in CBT we use SMART goals to help people get to where they want to be. A SMART goal is:

Specific – Be clear about what you want to achieve.

Measurable – Make sure the goal can be measured and that you can recognise if you’ve achieved it.

Achievable – Check your goal is something you have the time, money and resources to meet.

Relevant – Make sure your goal is relevant to where you are now and where you want to be in the future.

Time-based – Set a realistic deadline to achieve your goal.

How to Form Healthy Habits That Last

First, decide what you want to achieve (e.g. stop smoking, do more exercise, make more time for self-care, reduce alcohol consumption etc.). List all the reasons why you want to make these changes and then create a separate list of things that might get in the way of you achieving your goal. Be honest with yourself.

Start by planning the small steps that will help you make a bigger change. Create a timeframe and add it to your diary. Journaling can help you recognise progress. Recording your mood can also reveal patterns of behaviour and barriers to change.

Remember to reward yourself along the way. Small steps count, so celebrate every success. Most important of all, you mustn’t feel any shame or guilt if you falter. Although a new year {or a new decade} seems like an ideal time for a fresh start, every day is an opportunity to start over and try again. If things go wrong, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from the experience and plan your next small step.

What healthy habits are you hoping to form in 2020?

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