Are you tough enough for change in 2014?

It’s the end of January and the celebrations of the festive period are now a distant memory. The press are constantly telling us that January is the most depressing month, and here am I adding to that perception! All the rich pickings – that enormous Christmas dinner, mince pies, chocolate, alcohol etc. – that just seemed part of the deal, now doesn’t feel like such a good idea. Clothes that were once loose…hmmm, you get the picture. As the saying goes, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”. The saving grace for many is that on January 1st everything can change, right? The problem is that most of those well meant New Year Resolutions (NYRs) have already failed by the end of January; mostly because NYRs are unrealistic and take little account of how difficult changing behaviour actually is. Whether the change represents consuming a healthier diet, taking more exercise, or drinking less coffee, the brutal truth is…it’s not easy. You will be tempted to revert back to old habits. Social support has been shown across the broad spectrum of behaviour change, to be a key factor related to success. No wonder then, that many people join groups (e.g. weight loss, exercise, diet groups) to help facilitate change. There is no doubt that external factors (such as social support) are important in the process of successful behaviour change, but so are internal factors or attributes of the individual. What we at MTOUGH have learnt from studying sports people is that those who are mentally tough, are more likely to remain committed, stay motivated, and deal effectively with setbacks when faced with challenges. We are interested in whether mental toughness may also be an important part of the behavioural change process. We are already well underway with research in this area and hope to bring news of new publications soon enough. MTOUGH have been working alongside Dr. Jeff Breckon (Sheffield Hallam University) and Professor Bob Weinberg (Miami University) in extending mental toughness research beyond sport. In the meantime, we are pleased to announce that MTOUGH is teaming up with a large multi-national organisation to examine the role of mental toughness in areas such as diet and weight loss (details to follow). If people with higher mental toughness attain better outcomes through weight loss / diet programs then this paves the way for targeted interventions to help people “toughen-up” and prepare for the challenges of behaviour change. We will share updates of this important work as things progress. In the meantime, if your NYRs have failed, then perhaps it’s time to stop only thinking about the dream goal, and start planning what you can do, in small manageable steps, today, tomorrow and next week to begin the progress towards sustained change. Be realistic…you can’t change everything at once.