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It’s notoriously difficult to stick to New Year’s resolutions – a study by Bristol University found that 88% of those that make resolutions will fail to keep them. And for people quitting smoking and coping with cravings the challenge is even greater. So what’s the secret to staying on track? We asked psychologist Carly Sandercombe (pictured, left) of Psychology Wales, for her advice.

How can people set themselves realistic goals for their New Year’s resolutions that they are more likely to reach?

SMART goals are a great way to make realistic goals for a New Year’s resolution. These are goals that are; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. SMART goals are designed to provide structure and guidance to the goal setting process and help to better identify what you want to accomplish.

What are the main reasons why people find it difficult to stick to their New Year’s resolutions?

Most often people fail to stick to a New Year’s resolution as the resolution itself was not realistic which can make it extremely difficult to achieve. Also, by not having a proper plan in place individuals can find it hard to know how to make the changes that they want. Having a realistic plan in place can help people to stick to their New Year resolution.

If people feel tempted to cave in and give in temptation – i.e. have a cigarette when they’ve decided to give up smoking – what can they do to put themselves back on track?

Distraction is a helpful technique that people can use whereby they have something else that they can do to occupy themselves when they are tempted to cave in. This can be anything that they find enjoyable, for example a crossword puzzle, watching a favourite TV programme, or reading a chapter of a book they like. Also, it can help to look back at the reasons why they wanted to give up. There are also lots of APPS available such as the Smokefree health and fitness APP by the NHS which help to remind the person how far they have come and what they have achieved as well as the health rewards of giving up smoking.

If people do slip up how can they stop themselves from becoming despondent?

Slip ups are sometimes inevitable and are extremely common. However, they can be used as an opportunity to learn about what went wrong and how to prevent a similar setback from occurring in the future. For example, people can ask themselves the following questions; what triggers led up to this setback? What can I learn from this setback? What can I do differently in similar situations in the future?

Why is New Year a good time to set new goals for yourself?

Any time is a good time to set goals. However, people tend to set goals during this time as it is seen a new year and therefore a fresh start. I would encourage people that want to set goals to start them whatever the time of year as once they begin to make positive changes, for example stopping smoking, they will start to see and feel the positive results.

Smoking as an addiction is particularly challenging to give up – what would you say to motivate smokers who are struggling with the idea of life without cigarettes?

There are not only numerous health benefits associated with giving up smoking but also the financial benefits are huge! Put aside the money that you would have spent on cigarettes and spend it on a treat for yourself, reward yourself for all your good work!

And the benefits of quitting will continue into the next decade of your life and beyond…..

  • Within a year your risk of heart disease will be about half that of a person who is still smoking.
  • After ten years your risk of developing lung cancer drops to half that of a person still smoking.
  • Once 15 years have passed, your risk of a heart attack is the same as somebody who never smokes.

If you want to stop smoking Help Me Quit is run by NHS Wales and will help you to find the stop smoking service that best suits you. Contact them on 0800 085 2219 or visit

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