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So how’s your new year’s resolution going?

What on earth poses us at the start of a new calendar year to set a New Year’s resolution?

Whether it’s the idea of a fresh start or it's because we’ve over indulged during the previous couple of weeks, I think the idea of making a change for the better is always a fantastic and admirable challenge to undertake.

It’s interesting that on the NHS website one of the top 10 goal setting tips for deciding on a New Year’s resolution is…

“Avoid previous resolutions. Deciding to revisit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment”

Wow, did I hear that right? We should give up on trying to change something that we were unable to change in the past…what a defeatist attitude!

Instead, if you weren’t successful in the past then perhaps it’s worth considering that there’s a better way to go about making that change than the one you used last time.

So how do most people try to stick to the resolutions set on the first of January? Well most often it’s just going cold turkey, just grinning and baring it, showing ’em what your willpower’s made of. Unfortunate I’m here to tell you that that is probably the most ineffective way to keep a change going. More than half of resolutions are doomed to fail by the end of the first week, and the vast majority don’t make it past the first three weeks. When it comes to will power verses your subconscious my money’s on the subconscious.

What do I mean by this?

Well whenever we set about making a permanent change by simply using our willpower we’re also setting ourselves up for a great battle between our conscious mind and our subconsious. Will power is a wonderful thing, it stops us acting inappropriately at social gatherings when we’re dying to say or do something inappropriate or when we’re frustrated with someone in traffic. There’s a part of our brain that moderates the competing urges and usually chooses the most socially acceptable behaviour…on most days that is.

The trouble is that although in general our willpower is a fantastic thing, in the long haul it has its good moments and it’s bad. If we think of times when we feel great and we feel balanced then our willpower is in pretty good shape too. Unfortunately that’s not the case all the time. At times when we’re feeling tired, depleted, stressed, or even perhaps under the influence of alcohol, our will power becomes weaker, or you could say that our subconscious urges become too great to control.

How many of you after keenly keeping to a diet throughout the day have succumbed the urge of chocolates or a rich creamy curry following the stress of a nightmarish journey home on crowded and delayed trains? Or perhaps you’ve managed to stop smoking for a few weeks or even months, but as soon as something immensely stressful happens you just can’t resist lighting up ‘just one’ cigarette.

So when trying to make a permanent change wouldn’t it be great if we relied less on our willpower and instead tried to make changes at the subconscious level. This way, if we’re successful, we never really have to rely on our willpower at all and change becomes much easier and natural. Of course we can still utilise our willpower at times but it can be left to deal with the day to day stuff rather than be burdened with the challenge of a ongoing task.

So the big question is how do we change at the subconscious level? Well first it’s important to recognise that our subconscious is changing all the time…it could be through the repetition of tasks (which is why some people find affirmations useful) or it could be when our emotions are involved. Have you ever realised that the most vivid memories are usually the emotionally charged ones?

Put simply, there are many alternative therapies which work in different ways, targeting elements of our thought patterns and our behaviours so that we can change at a deeper level.

Some deal with the connection between thoughts and behaviours (as in CBT), others with internal representations in the form of our senses and manipulating those representations to create change (as in NLP), and then there’s hypnotherapy which is a way of directing suggestions to the subconscious. Of course there are many many other therapies once you start to look, each with something unique to offer.

Which you choose is entirely a personal choice and what I’d like you ‘the reader’ to consider is that there is a better way to change habits or phobias or anxiety issues than simply relying on your willpower. Some people are successful in this approach and that is truly admirable, but given the choice between making things a hard slog (with a higher risk of failure) and an approach that utilises you minds own model of the world, the choice should be an easy one. So perhaps it’s time to look for alternatives to how you try make that change next time…and as for the NHS advice at the start of this article, if you haven’t succeeded at keeping a New Year’s resolution in the past then perhaps it’s time to change you approach and try again.

For help or advice with any issue such as addictions, anxiety, phobias, weight loss, sports performance, or any other issue you have questions on please drop me a line either through my website or via my Facebook page. Cognitive Hypnotherapy utilises many different techniques and is uniquely adapted to every individual in its therapeutic approach. For more information please visit my website

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