Here’s a contribution from freelance writer Sally Spratt (Sally Writes)  I think it’s great. Hope you enjoy it!

Getting Back On The Horse: How To Maintain Your Commitment To Better Health  

Are you one of the 41% of Americans who has made a New Year’s resolution in 2018 but are finding them hard to stick to now that February is here? The changing of the calendars is a fantastic time for hope and optimism, as the months ahead offer a blank canvas to carve out an ideal future for yourself. Making a commitment to areas such as your health, relationships and finances offers tremendous benefits for the mind and body, putting you right on track to achieve those internal goals this year.

But what happens if you slip up and fall back into your old ways? Is it time to give up? New research suggests that less than 50% of people have stuck to their resolutions after six months, and only 12% have kept up the changes after a year. With the right guidance, you can be one of the success stories of 2018. This article explores the science behind forming positive health habits and how you can use a relapse in behavior as a building block in your quest to become a healthier version of you.

Positive Visualization

When committing to a goal, or a resolution, it’s important to really flesh out a rich image of what you’re trying to achieve. Some people may promise to make certain changes to their life to please a loved one, or because of external social pressures. If you really want to make a positive change, then it must be real to you as an individual. You should develop a clear vision of your objective and feel passionate about it.

Start by visualizing yourself in an image of the finished goal. How do you look? How do you feel? What will you need to experience to recognize that you’ve succeeded in achieving your dream? It may be crossing the finish line of a marathon and hearing the crowd cheering, or perhaps standing on the scales and reaching your target weight after completing a fitness and nutrition program. Once you’ve committed to your goal, it’s essential that you plan out your route to reaching it, taking positive action in little steps to get you where you want to be.

Using Cues To Form Positive Habits

New habits are not formed overnight, some have been with us for as long as we can remember. Washing our hands after visiting the bathroom, or turning off an alarm clock as soon as we wake up are both examples of habits that we don’t even think about because they’re automatic. When it comes to forming new habits, it takes time to change existing behaviors and replace them with a new and more desirable approach. This involves setting certain cues to encourage you towards your goal.

Professor Clayton R Cook from the University of Minnesota explains “Many people have all kinds of competing cues for unhealthy habits. The key to change is to “embed cues that signal or prompt a person to exhibit the new desired behavior.”

For instance, if your goal is to get fit and you’ve identified that you want to start jogging to help you achieve this, then place your running shoes next to the front door and lay out your fitness clothes the night before, to prompt you into action.

Slipping Up

So, what happens if you’ve been sticking to your resolutions, only to experience a setback and find yourself slipping back into old patterns? The most important thing is not to beat yourself up about it. You’re only human and the very fact that you’ve identified the setback is proof that you’re committed to achieving your goal. Going through a relapse in behavior is a very typical part of the process, but it’s essential that you don’t let this event threaten your dedication. It might help to pair up with an accountability partner with similar goals to your own. This might be a friend or family member, or alternatively someone you’ve met at a fitness class or weight loss group. Having a peer to motivate you can do wonders for keeping you moving towards those targets.

If you’re working towards a healthier version of you this year, take steps every day to improve your habits and if you do find yourself falling off the wagon, simply carry out a bit of course-correction and get back on track as soon as you can.

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