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  • Isobel Mahon

Help! I need to change my life (New Years Resolutions)

Welcome to my new 2020 blog. I'll be honest, I'm backdating because last week on Ask Isobel on Today with Maura and Daithi we talked about New Year Resolutions and It's only now I'm managing to catch up. But here goes. What jumps out to me are a couple of things:

Keep it simple, I don't know about you but my brain can only deal with one change at a time!

Secondly, work out why you want to change something . If you can do that, the what will be a whole lot easier! Anyhow, here are some of our viewers questions:

1. I can never seem to keep a resolution despite really wanting to. Each year, I get very excited by the prospect of being able to change something in my life but the motivation fades fast and I'm back to square one. Over the past I've tried giving up biting my nails, eating badly, even smoking and I'm still doing all of those things. I want 2020 to be my year. HELP!


A. It sounds like you’ve been working away at using will power on your own and honestly that doesn’t work for a lot of people so you’re in good company. First of all resolutions can feel overwhelming and if you feel like you’ve struggled with them in the past you’re dragging the old ‘it’ll never work anyway’ message which makes you feel even more stuck.

It kind of sounds like the things you’ve tried to give up have a comfort aspect to them. Even biting nails has a comfort function.

So, first of all pick one thing. Keep it simple, don’t overwhelm yourself.

Secondly, engage some help. Like writing in to me! Whether it’s a GP, a hypnotist or whatever but work out why… if you have a ‘why’ it gives a motivation to the ‘what’ and that really helps.

Write down all the ways you’d benefit if you did ONE of those things.

Then, find an alternative that you enjoy because deprivation on its own doesn’t go down well with most people. Its like we’ve an inner child saying ‘But I want it!’

So what are the things that smoking/biting your nails gives you and what could you do to feel comforted, instead?

*Scientifically is much easier to start something good than stop something bad so don’t try to give something up without starting a replacement behaviour.

But most of all what I hear from you is stop trying to do it on your own. Enlist help and I think things will really start to improve.


2. Why do New Year's resolutions always make me feel guilty? It's like I dwell on all of the bad things about myself/my life and then I think, "Well, I've never stuck to one, so what's the point in trying?" so I give up at the first hurdle. Can you help me change my attitude?

Sounds like New Years Resolutions start activating your inner critic as soon as you begin to make them. First of all we all have one… an inner critic, that is. There’s always the voice tat says ‘Id love to do X’ and the other voice that says ‘Who are you kidding?’

But that’s not the truth. The reality is you are amazing and well able to change something in your life and it’s about connecting with that part of you. First of all you’ve sent this email so that’s an amazing start to the New Year.

I’m a great believer in writing things down. Its actually known to reduce stress as you’re not trying to carry it all in your head.

Secondly, challenge that voice….I’ve done this myself and it’s very powerful.

Two columns on a piece of paper and write all the critical things you’re saying on one side and then on the opposite side reply to each statement with ‘Yes but I also … ‘ You’re really getting to the inner critic that way. Its positive self-talk and a real antidote to beating yourself up.

Again, work our why you want to change and write down the benefits. If possible enrol another friend, partner or whoever and keep each other motivated. Honestly, it’ll really help. Having a context to work in is really helpful, much more than willpower alone.

Its all about habit. Changing habits. It takes about a month to change a habit but after that the new behaviour becomes much easier. So it’s not hard any more.


3. I am happy with myself and as far as I am aware there's nothing wrong with how I'm living my life, so I never bother making resolutions; to be honest I don't get the point of them - I don't understand why people feel they need to change who they are. Am I missing something? Should I want to better myself in some way?

Well, congratulations! You are obviously someone who feels pretty well in control of their life. You don’t feel like you’re engaging in self-destructive behaviours, good for you keep at it. The facts are that some people are genetically more prone to addictions and habit formation. It sounds like you’re one of the lucky ones who isn’t.


4. How do you give up something you really love doing? Every year I make the same resolution - to give up smoking. I know that it is bad for me and I know I shouldn't say this, but I love it - it's comforting, it gives me a release, helps me relax, there's nothing I don't love about it. So how do I give it up?

Again. Doing it because you think you ought to just won’t work because the motivation doesn’t come close to the gratification you get from smoking. Honestly write down all the things you love about smoking… what else could provide some of the gratification? E-cigarettes is the obvious answer. But what about something else that brings you comfort? Have a coffee / tea instead. Let that become the far less destructive habit.

The truth is there is going to be a loss if you give up a habit that you love and I think you have to be prepared for that.

Number one, ask for help, because at the moment it sounds like part of you wants to give up and another part doesn’t. Maybe you need to get your motivation clear. Then you’ll be at first base.

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