Eight tips for sticking to your New Year’s Resolutions

Hypnotherapy goals 2020
Hypnosis tips for achieving your 2020 goals

It’s January. You’ve made resolutions. Newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs are bulging with secrets to keeping them. Some might work, many won’t, but in my 17 years as a busy hypnotherapist I can confidently stand by the fact that myself and my patients get the most out of self-hypnosis when it comes to matters of controlling willpower. Combined with common sense planning, it’s an unbeatable two-punch system to stave off crawling into a pit of despair by January 31st, when you realise you’ve failed at every goal you set for yourself.

The phrase “self-hypnosis” was coined by Scottish physician James Braid back in the 1840s. After trying out his hypnotism technique as a form of therapy on his patients, he turned his newfound powers back on himself and obliterated the pain from a severe bout of rheumatism. 180 years later, and self-hypnosis is widely regarded as a method for people to harness in order to change their lives for the better, from pain management to motivation to growing self-worth to battling stress and anxiety. And the great news is it’s totally free and available for anyone to do.

In my career as a hypnotherapist, I have treated all kinds of people with problems both physical and mental, not to mention countless phobias, but I’m always eager to put self-care into my patients’ own hands too, empowering them to improve their lives on a daily basis. Self-help comes in many forms – you’ve only got to look at Chris Evans’ “Myself is not my I today” mantra to see how wacky it can get – but in my experience, mixing self-hypnosis with some common sense is the best way to stick to your goals. Here are some tips:

  1. BABY STEPS

One big mistake we all make is to overload our resolution list, and to set goals that would defeat anyone without superpowers. Don’t quit smoking, drinking, meat, sugar and pornography at the same time – you’ll last three days before you don’t recognise the husk looking back at you from the bathroom mirror. If you intend on quitting something, why not quit it on weekdays and allow yourself an indulgence at the weekend. And don’t quit five things at once – you’ll leave yourself with nothing to turn to when the days get hard.

  1. PHONE IT IN

Now, one thing I’m personally cutting down on this January is my screen-time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t harness the power of the black mirror in your pocket to help you achieve your goals. For starters, you can use the notes and reminders apps to log your progress and jot down the mantras that matter most to you: anything from “I deserve the happiness I desire” to “Anyone who tries to boss me around is going to regret it”. And in the same way health apps can ping a reminder to tell you to drink some water, you can set alarms so that your goals and affirmations can pop up onscreen as notifications. We all need reminding of our goals and worth from time to time – why not make our phones be the messenger.

  1. PICTURE PERFECTION

You don’t need to Photoshop your head onto the body of Kylie Jenner or Chris Hemsworth in order to visualise the ideal you want to achieve when you begin your January diet (although please do if that floats your boat). But it is worth spending time visualising what it is you want out of life and how your resolutions can aid you in that. Picture yourself at the gym, burning off that Christmas fat. Or at work, impressing your boss and colleagues with your newfound assertiveness. Or with friends, as you make an effort to be more sociable. Or putting a smile on your mother’s face, as you resolve to call her more and make her a bigger part of your life. Whatever the goal, a bit of time spent bringing it to life in your mind will help cement the value of achieving it, and what steps are required.

  1. DO NOT DISTURB

Self hypnosis is a form of relaxation, like meditating, in which you can let your mind drift off whilst affirming it with a mantra. If you can find a spare 20 minutes in your day, then shut yourself in a quiet room (although relaxing music of your choice is perfectly fine) and put your phone on airplane mode. Then sit back on the most comfortable chair you can lay your hands on, and let your eyes focus on a point in the room. Now it’s time to visualise something you find supremely peaceful and relaxing.

I like to imagine I’m stepping slowly into a blissful infinity pool on a hot day, the only person around. I close my eyes and take time with the first step, imagining the sensation of the cool water on my toes, the heat on my body, closing my eyes to imagine the sounds and smells. With each step into the pool, I relax further. The state we enter after just a few moments of intensely picturing something like this, as we imagine our body submerging, is the beginning of self-hypnosis, and it’s when we can fill our mind with the affirmation we wish to carry with us for the rest of the day. Repeat your mantra over and over in your head as you continue to submerge in your mind. As an example (and considering it’s Veganuary and I’m vegan!), you could be saying “I don’t feel the need to eat meat and dairy” or “I choose to be vegan”.

After ten or fifteen minutes of imagining yourself in this pure, peaceful place, with the repeated phrase running through your mind, you can slowly bring yourself out of it. I imagine myself gradually stepping up out of the pool, the sun warming me as I leave the still water. You’ll find yourself “back in the room” (to quote a Little British TV hypnotist) and feeling not just relaxed and refreshed, but also with a renewed sense of drive in your goal.

  1. LADDER CONTROL

Draw a ladder to represent the progression from where you are now, to where you want to be. Now write down the five steps that you need to achieve in order to reach the top. So for example, if your resolution is to lose weight, your first step might be to improve self esteem, then drink 8 glasses of water every day, learn how to cook, find a physical activity that you enjoy or increase your 5-a-day (fruit and veg, not beer). Now photocopy the ladder and pin it to your fridge, above your sink, on the bathroom mirror – anywhere you will see it throughout your day. Tick off each step that you achieve and visualise yourself climbing the ladder towards your goal. The satisfaction you’ll feel as you tick these off, and the drive to make it to the top of the ladder, will spur you on.

  1. WHERE THERE’S WILLPOWER…

Inevitably, there will be times when your self control is challenged. We’ve all said “never again” and then found ourselves sipping a margarita just a few hours later (well, I hope that’s not specific to just me). Studies have found that willpower is like a muscle and it can benefit from a workout. Here are three daily exercises to help you strengthen it.

1.     Sit up straight: Every time you notice yourself slouching, correct your posture. It may sound simple but it takes effort to sit up straight and that means your willpower muscle will be at work.

2.     Use the opposite hand: consciously try to do everyday tasks with your less dominant hand – brush your teeth, open the door, turn on the tap. Your brain will go into overdrive focusing on it.

3.     Hold your wee: A 2011 study entitled Inhibitory spillover: increased urination urgency facilitates impulse control in unrelated domains by Tuk, Trampe and Wallop found that waiting to relieve yourself can boost your self control, and that the discipline required to hold it in and can spill over into other tasks. Just don’t spill over anything else.

  1. TIDY UP

Marie Kondo’s Netflix show told us how to roll our T-shirts into balls so we could fit more of them in our drawers and to throw away anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. This is good advice – a clean and tidy home is a more relaxing environment than a tip (I’ve got two kids, so I know first hand) and if we feel relaxed we’re less likely to turn to our vices to make everything feel alright. But it’s also worth decluttering the spiritual side of our lives as well as the physical. Do you have an annoying persistent self-involved “friend” who feels like a drain on your positivity? Find an excuse not to spend time with them, maybe even tell them their negativity is becoming an issue. Got an inbox swelling with unreplied-to emails that’s been bugging you for weeks? Set aside an hour to clear the important ones and unflag the unimportant ones. When there’s less burdening your brain, you’re less likely to fall back into bad habits.

  1. FIND A CAUSE

We can all get a little self-involved at times, and we live in a world that’s often begging for our help. A great way to not only fill the time that you might otherwise spend indulging your vice, whilst simultaneously making you feel better about yourself (which is also likely to keep you slipping toward whatever you’re trying to quit), is to take on a cause. Join a charity that’s close to your heart. Volunteer. Get involved in local politics, so you can be a force for good in the place where you live. A new year is a psychological new start, and giving yourself a boost in the self-worth department will make you feel better about yourself whilst improving the world around you. And if it means joining a 5K run, then you can get fit at the same time – win/win!

In my hypnotherapy practice, I often see an influx of clients in February. After a month of trying, willpower has waned and they’re in need of help to get back on track. Give yourself every chance of success because once a behaviour has been in place long enough, a new habit will be formed. It’s often the first month that’s the trickiest. Believe in yourself, enjoy each win, and find joy in every day.

Contact me for advice or further information.

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