A New Year marks a new resolution for many of us and even though we can all dream about making ourselves feel better, the reality is putting it action is a whole lot harder.

Apparently the second Friday of January has been adopted as ‘Quitters Day’ – a time when our good intentions and our New Year pledges, well just disappear.

It’s the day when we go back to bingeing on junk food, deciding we’re too tired to go to the gym, or give into our cravings.

So we spoke to one of the UK’s top ‘mind-over-matter’ experts, Howard Cooper, who is based in Borehamwood, for his top tips on sticking to those New Year resolutions.

Mr Cooper, a hypnotherapist at Rapid Change Works, has worked with thousands of clients to help them overcome their fears and phobias, while also helping stick to their resolutions. He lost four stone himself through his own tips.

Ready to beat the demon in your mind and stick to your guns?

1. Unleash the power of your imagination – it is stronger than your willpower.

Most people try losing weight using willpower alone. But did you know, imagination can be more powerful? When I lost 4 stone four years ago, instead of resisting doughnuts using willpower, I imagined they were stale and mouldy. Changing your thinking can unleash your imagination. How much willpower would you need not to eat a mouldy cake from the bin?

2. Picture yourself as a Steady Eddie: Start small and plan smart.

Don’t psych yourself up to race into January going to the gym seven days a week. You’ll be a prime candidate for Quitters’ Day because you are never going to keep it up. Tell yourself it’s better to start with an easy win and build on a cycle of success than fall at the first hurdle and feel like you’ve failed.

3. Don’t demotivate yourself with ‘premature achievement’.

Instead of imagining yourself having achieved your success, imaging yourself taking the steps to succeed. Let’s consider your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, for example. Often people try to motivate themselves by imagining already being at their ideal weight. However, this can backfire. It’s better to imagine feeling good 'taking the steps' to achieve rather than imagining the goal.

4. Planning to fail will help you to deal with any setbacks.

Whatever your New Year’s Resolution goal, spend time in advance thinking about possible setbacks you may encounter. Imagine you’re trying to lose weight and you stick to a strict diet for three weeks and then eat one chocolate bar. You can either tell yourself: “That’s it. I’ve blown it!” and then binge eat for the next five years, or you can get right back on track.

5. Develop a mindset based on discipline, not motivation.

Are you one of those people who’ve been thinking of giving up smoking for ages? Have you been pondering going to the gym all year? Now’s the time to develop a mindset that is all about discipline, not just ‘finding the motivation’. The best writers don’t suffer from so-called writer’s block, they just get on with it. Often just doing it comes first. Motivation comes second.

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6. Think of your New Year Resolution as something you enjoy.

Make a mental image of something you enjoy doing. Go ahead and do that now. When you picture this thing you enjoy, notice how you represent it. Is it a colour mental image or is it in black and white? Large mental image or a small one? Moving or still? Bright or dim and dark? Notice all its characteristics. Now picture taking the steps to achieve your New Year’s Resolution but practise picturing it with these same characteristics.

7. ‘Chunk up’ your thoughts in an easy-to-handle bundle.

Condense the detail of your internal dialogue. Try “chunking up” and giving yourself just headlines of what you are trying to do. Contemplating the minutiae of every detail is demotivating. I asked someone recently: “What’s something you look forward to doing?” They replied: “I would love to go to Glastonbury.” So, I said: “Imagine it’s the day before you go to Glastonbury, how would you motivate yourself to get there?” They replied: “I’d get my bags, catch a train and bingo, I’m there!”

I took our conversation further. “You’ve also told me you want to exercise every morning but are struggling. Why?” They explained: “Well, I have to get out of bed. I take out my gym kit. Then I put it on. Next, I have to go downstairs. I’d open the front door. Then lock it behind me, and so on.” They were breaking their task down into so many tiny aspects they were freaking themselves out with the sheer number of steps involved. Chunk up your thoughts in easier-to-handle bundles.

8. Identify your emotional triggers, then work round them.

Millions of us will be trying to lose weight in January, which can be challenging if we have been pre-conditioned mentally about food and its role in our life. Many of us learn when we are in our childhood that food can be used to make us feel better.

Skip forward 20 years. You’ve had a tough day. The feel-good food craving pops up again. Picking yourself up without needing food can be a useful skill to develop. Work at developing alternative options.

9. Ask yourself the question: ‘Am I closer?, not ‘Am I there yet?’

Some people can begin to feel frustrated if they’re not losing weight fast enough. So they abandon hope. The problem is often that they’re focusing too much on the end result. So ask yourself: “Am I closer to my goals today than I was yesterday?”. This will encourage you to stick to your New Year’s Resolution and get past Quitters’ Day by taking one day at a time.

10. Grab a carrot and stick, and seek help if you wish.

Give yourself something to move towards and something to move away from. It’s a carrot-and-stick approach. Imagine what your future holds if you carry on eating junk food, don’t drink less, don’t hit the gym and don't focus on your health. Now imagine what your future looks like if you do focus on your health and nutritional wellbeing. Keeping the stark contrast between these futures in mind can help you make better choices. And don’t be afraid to seek outside help.