Plan ahead to keep resolutions, say university experts

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WANT to keep that important New Year’s resolution? Then you need a plan.

Research by Sheffield University psychologists has found bad moods, negative feelings and high levels of emotions are most likely to see the best of intentions fall by the wayside.

In such situations important resolutions – such as giving up smoking or keeping to a new diet – can be abandoned as people resort instead to risky or impulsive behaviour.

Dr Thomas Webb says the trick to keeping cool when things start to go wrong is to have a plan designed to control your actions.

The goal is to deal with a bad mood effectively, so breaking the link between negative emotions and risky behaviour.

He said: “Translating goals into action is a complex process fraught with potential obstacles. A substantial proportion of people fail to attain their goals.

“Research suggests almost a third of people who make resolutions keep them for less than a week.”

The Sheffield psychologists carried out tests and asked volunteers to finish the sentence: “If I am in a negative mood, then I will...”

They then had to select one of a series of strategies, such as breathing deeply or thinking positive thoughts. Planning in this way helped reduce the impact of bad moods on impulsive behaviour.

Dr Webb said: “Considerable evidence now suggests deciding when, where, and how to act in advance can help people to stick to their goals.

“This type of plan is called an ‘implementation intention’ and specifies both a good opportunity in which to act and a suitable response to that opportunity.”

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