The turkey is finally eaten, the coconut chocolates are the only ones left in the box and the last few needles are clinging to the tree.

And with New Year fast approaching, attention is turning to 2019 and the pledges people make to effect positive change in their lives.

Exercising more, losing weight, eating more healthily are the three most common New Year’s resolutions, according to a ComRes Poll in 2015.

But whether it is giving up smoking, drinking less alcohol or saving money, psychotherapist Karin Sieger says that people embarking on New Year’s resolutions might need a strategy and support – including therapy – help to reach their goal.

“New Year is a date in the diary which helps us focus,” said Karin, a BACP-accredited and registered psychotherapist.

“It is also a date after a festive season where it is often not frowned upon to overindulge. People have one last fling with the things they want to stop because in the New Year it will all change. It’s a nice excuse.

“Resolutions are at the top of the mind for many people. It’s being talked about and written about and, because we are not on our own, it can make it easier.

“But for it to work people need to take time to understand what is involved. And they need patience, because lifestyle changes don’t just happen.”


The ComRes survey found that a quarter of all UK adults made a New Year’s resolution, but fewer than one in eight successfully kept one.

The most common reasons for giving up or not achieving a resolution were a lack of commitment and a loss of motivation.

But Karin said that imposing a lifestyle change on one specific day of the year is itself problematic.

“Do you really want to call a serious personal change a New Year’s resolution?” she asked. “Does it make it a bit frivolous?

“If it’s a resolution I think that has a start and an end, like I want to lose 5kg.

“Why do people feel you just pick a date in the diary to make a lifestyle change?

“You need to understand why you engage in the habits that you think you want to stop.

“If it’s to fulfil an emotional or psychological purpose, which most of them do, you can’t stop the habit without something in place that supports you.

“If you are smoking for comfort or stress, the stress is not going to stop just because you stop smoking.

“You will continue to need comfort. For many, if you have a vacuum there, the stress is still there and could increase without the comfort. It’s a double whammy.”

Domino effect

She added: "What do you have to fall back on?

“People replace one thing with another. I call it the domino effect. We then have another habit and have to stop that one as well.

“It can lead to a sense of frustration. People think ‘what’s wrong with me, why can’t I correct this?’.

“You end up feeling trapped and sometimes therapy comes into it. If you dig a bit deeper you might understand what is causing the stress, what is behind the need for comfort.

“Hopefully, you can find out ways of avoiding this situation in the first place.”

Karin, who has a private practice in West London, says that people embarking on lifestyle changes in the New Year should think about whether they tell other people.

“Does your success depend on support from others?” she said. “You might want to think about whether you want to talk about it with other people because you are under the microscope.

“People will watch you. You open yourself up to more pressure. You can set yourself up for a sense of failure.

“For other people, the pressure of it might be just what they need. Some people need to be under the microscope.

“If you live with other people and it is something that will impact their lifestyle, meals for example, or drink, then I think it is important that they know what is going on and that they support you.

“If you know you have a thing about alcohol then people in your home can support you.”

Be realistic

Indeed, Karin said that in some cases it can be fun to achieve something in the New Year with a friend or a partner.

“It is nice to do things together,” she said. “For example, it’s nice to do sports together. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t cause stress.

“People need to be realistic. If you want to start running but haven’t done a lot of exercise you need to build up to it.

“Rather than start at the top, people have to have a realistic way of building themselves up.

“It does take some commitment, because in many cases it is a lifestyle change.”

To find a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist near you visit BACP’s Find a Therapist directory.