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Don't give up: 10 tips to stay motivated

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

You know it's January when gyms are full to bursting and supermarkets get a run on fruit and veg. New Year is an easy time to make resolutions but sticking to them for the long haul is the hard bit.

Be it losing weight, cutting down alcohol, doing more exercise, or making any other change to your life, the trick is to keep motivated and not give up.

Whatever the season, it's always a good time to stop a bad habit or take up a healthier one. Luckily, there are ways to make it much easier to stick to. All you need is a little thought and planning. We asked the experts for their help.

1. Small targets

Don't set yourself up for failure by taking on too much. From the comfort of your sofa don't say 'I want to run a marathon, lose 7 stone, and become stinking rich'. Think of a smaller target, perhaps losing a pound a week, doing a short jog every Saturday, or saving a certain amount of money each month. Then as time goes on build on it.

"Goal-setting is the key, but the trick is to make goals small and manageable," advises Philip Corr, professor of psychology at City University of London. "Setting a chain of little goals, each of which can be easily achieved, is the best strategy and these then add up to achieving the much larger goal," he adds.

If you start off with an enormous goal it may seem totally unattainable and out of reach, which gives you an excuse to give up before you've even started.

2. Make it a habit

Make your resolution part of your life. That may take longer than you think so don't give up too soon.

Researchers at University College London found that the average time to learn a new habit, like eating an apple or having a run, is between 18 and 254 days - on average that's 66 days.

So, in real terms, that's about 2 months before a new behaviour becomes part of your life.

"When we take steps towards a new goal we usually feel excited and determined, but after a while this motivation can fade, and this is when we often give up. The trick is to focus on building the new behaviour into your routine, so that when motivation wanes, which at some stage it will, you have created enough of a habit that the behaviour starts to run itself automatically," advises Juliet Hodges, senior behaviour change advisor at Bupa UK.

"We create habits, good and bad, by repeating an action until it becomes ingrained in our brain. If you want to kick a bad habit like quitting smoking, or create a good habit like exercising more, start small and set yourself mini-goals. Once you've repeated this a few times, increase the intensity," adds Juliet.

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