It's the time of year when we all vow to get thinner, fitter, healthier or richer. But will we stick to our resolutions this year? Here are some you're likely to keep.
There's nothing like new year's resolutions for bringing people closer. We all make 'em and we all break 'em. Study after study has shown that for many of us willpower doesn't last past January. For quite a few of us, it doesn't last the week.
But that doesn't mean making a new year's resolution is pointless, it just means you have to make the right one. Here are some great resolutions for men and how to make sure you reach your goals.
Planning makes perfect
According to Mark Lutman, a martial arts instructor and specialist in personal development, the key to a good resolution is making it personal and realistic.
"As anyone who has ever written a goal plan will tell you, most of the time we write what we think we are supposed to write, as opposed to what we really want," he says. "The first step then is to focus on what WE really want for US, then to set short-, medium- and long-term timescales."
It doesn't really matter what those timescales are, he adds, as long as they're achievable. If you've just bought your first pair of running shoes, don't sign up for a 10km race in February. Failing to meet goals only leads to disappointment and giving up.
So if you really have just bought your first pair of running shoes, your short-term goal might simply be to use them twice a week for the rest of January.
Think of progress differently
Remember that your progress may not be linear, and there may be bumps in the road. Accept it. If you resolve to stay off sugary treats for three months and you have a chocolate eclair on 15 January, think of the two weeks you've completed and climb back on the wagon. Guilt is another resolution killer.
Lutman also says you should look for progress in other ways. "Say you start a programme of healthy eating and join a gym, but one month from now you weigh exactly the same. What a waste of a month (you think). But what you don't understand is that you've lost body fat and gained muscle, so of course you weigh the same. What you have managed to do is change your shape."
You may not always reach the goals you set yourself in the timeframe you'd like, but that doesn't mean you haven't made progress.
And remember, says Charlene Hutsebaut, a personal trainer with 20 years' experience in the fitness industry, simple science suggests that sometimes you need to stick at things for a while to see any results at all.
"Scientifically speaking, muscles do take at least eight weeks to make physiological changes, so sticking with a programme for at least that long is important," she says.
According to counsellor Elly Prior, seeing a resolution through requires lots of motivators rather than just one. So running twice a week will make you look better and will mean you can fit into the shirt you've promised yourself as a reward.
But if you think about it, being fitter will also make your weekly badminton or touch rugby match more fun. On top of that, it will make you more focused and energetic at work. And so on.
"Also, always remember to have a very detailed image in your mind, with lots of sensory information about what it will be like to have achieved that goal," says Prior. "Very simply put: washing up is a bore, but a clean kitchen is a joy."
So if you're giving up smoking, imagine what it feels like to not wake up coughing or feeling 'chesty' and the ease with which you'll breathe at the gym. Then imagine the look of the new trainers you'll buy with all the money you've saved on cigarettes.
So how do you put all this into practice? Well, let's take a resolution to get more exercise the most popular among men for starters. Making a resolution to exercise more is fine, says Charlene Hutsebaut, if you stick to a few simple rules.
First off, pick something you'll enjoy, even if it's not the best calorie-killer. And with exercise, says Hutsebaut, pacing yourself is essential, and that means giving yourself achievable goals.
"The most common error for non-exercisers who take it up in January is doing too much too soon. Starting slow and steady is better and allows the body and mind to ease into being active."
And as with all resolutions, you have to plan your regime carefully. "Set weekly goals here such as going to the gym twice a week only. Too many people think the 'go hard or go home' philosophy works it doesn't. In February the weekly goals can shift to attending the gym at least three times."
The same outline can be used for a lifestyle activity such as cycling to work, she adds. In January, twice a week is fine, pushing to three times in February, and so on.
With those basic principles in mind, here are a few more resolutions to try.
Read the labels
Many of us try to make resolutions involving what we eat, and many are hopelessly unrealistic. So registered nutritionist Dr Carina Norris suggests a different, more realistic tack.
"Make a resolution to read the nutritional labels they're not just for women!" she says. "Few of us have time to cook all of our meals from scratch nowadays, so we have to rely on the supermarket, and label reading is the only way you're going to find out how many calories, as well as how much total and saturated fat, salt and sugar, you're taking in."
Start a martial art
Fitness goals are fine, but for a different approach to sport and exercise, why not try a martial art? It won't necessarily get you a six-pack, says Mark Lutman, but it will give you a lot more besides.
"Personally I think studying and maintaining ancient traditions, building self-confidence, self-defence and expanding your social circle are all good reasons to start," he says.
Keep at it
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Of course, all this advice works whatever time of year you decide to put positive action into practice. But the new year does present you with a natural beginning. So make this year's resolution one you really do stick to, and you may actually be healthier, fitter or a little bit better off in some other way, by the time the leaves return to the trees.