How to make and keep New Year's resolutions, with advice from UAE experts

Whether you’re planning your fitness journey, decluttering your space or giving Veganuary a go, here are some handy tips and solutions

Exercising, eating healthy and saving money are some popular New Year's resolutions. Tim Mossholder / Unsplash
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There’s something about the start of a new year that makes us all evaluate, and plan for a better and brighter future.

However, making New Year’s resolutions can be quite intimidating, and sticking to those self-imposed goals does not boast the best track record. According to research from several British universities published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2021, most people give them up within the first month.

However, that isn’t to say you shouldn’t make them or that they aren’t achievable. Instead, the trick lies in making resolutions that are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound), according to the British Journal of Health Care Management.

If you’re thinking of making resolutions this year, here's a look at some of the most popular ones – along with advice and solutions on maintaining them.

I want to exercise more

Abu Dhabi has announced a free four-week fitness programme to take place in parks around the emirate. Shutterstock

It’s possibly one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, but keep in mind that “lose weight” or “get a flat stomach” can be ambiguous, and are often not a measure of how much stronger or healthier you are. Instead, it might be better to set goals such as “sign up for a 5k race” or “jog for half an hour every day”.

In the UAE, a number of gyms offer trial sessions, as well as subsidised rates and packages for people who want to get started in January.

Abu Dhabi residents who prefer working out outdoors are in luck, as the Abu Dhabi Sports Council has launched the Active Parks initiative. Running until Wednesday, January 26, it will offer 380 free training sessions in 12 public parks and urban spaces across the capital to anyone who is aged 15 and older.

For those looking for something more personalised, training and nutrition company Starcore is set to launch in Dubai in January. Built on a membership subscription system, the company helmed by fitness enthusiast Peter Barron will offer a 360-degree approach to personalised training, nutrition, plus meal plans.

Meanwhile, those looking for ways to make workouts fun and less intimidating can try including the whole family. Some handy products that help include Fitbit Ace 3, the brand’s newest fitness tracker aimed at children and designed to inculcate healthy habits early on.

I want to eat healthier

New UAE platform EroeGo delivers fruits and vegetables that may not be aesthetically pleasing – but are fresh – at discounted prices. Photo: EroeGo

While many begin the year with grand promises to cut out sugar and junk food, it’s no mean feat. That's why experts usually recommend more measurable goals such as vowing to include two vegetables in a daily diet, having a fruit a day or replacing junk food with healthier snacks.

“To eat better, we should aim to reduce consumption of processed foods,” says Daniel Solomon, founder of EroeGo, a UAE platform that aims to minimise wastage. Launched earlier this year, it works by partnering with farmers and wholesalers to sell “ugly” fruit and vegetables at discounted prices.

“Eating healthy doesn't mean we have to give up your favourite dishes, either. With some creativity and patience, anyone can mix healthy ingredients into a delicious meal,” says Solomon.

Dietitian and nutritionist Sabine Karam maintains the hardest part of eating healthy is consistency. It’s the reason she launched iDiet by HealthBox in December. The customisable meal service offers 11 plans across different cuisines, created with the help of nutritionists and chefs, and delivered to your doorstep.

Nutritionist Sabine Karam launched iDiet by HealthBox to help people stay consistent in their healthy eating goals. Photo: iDiet by Healthbox

“The thing with resolutions is they become more difficult once the initial excitement of the New Year fades. The best way to commit to your goal is to embrace a structure that removes the pressures of daily meal planning,” she says.

“I always recommend people use their initial resolution to not only mentally prepare themselves, but also plan ahead. Once the plan is in place, it becomes much easier to stick to your goals.”

I want to give Veganuary a go

Last year, more than 582,000 people signed up to take part in Veganuary, the annual campaign that encourages participants to eat only plant-based food for the month of January, and there are record sign-ups anticipated for 2022.

No matter where you are on your journey, Carly Dubery, founder of Not Just For Vegans, which provides eco-friendly and sustainable products, advises people to “set an intention to do and be better each day and accept that you will make mistakes”.

“Your mindset and approach will dictate how this experience will be for you. If you think you are depriving yourself, it will not be a nice experience. Instead, find vegan recipes that reflect your non-vegan favourite dishes. You will be surprised to see just how many alternatives are out there,” she says.

Vegan cheese at Spinney's first sustainable concept store located in Layan, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

If you’re thinking of swaps, vegan products – from plant-based milks to nut butters – are readily available in most UAE supermarkets. Recently, Spinney's launched a sustainable store in Dubai with shelves stacked with vegan products.

There are also a number of local favourites you can try, from Freakin’ Healthy’s protein balls to Grawtitude’s fermented nut-based cheese. Seva Table and Just Vegan are some popular dining establishments, while Expo 2020 Dubai is currently home to three plant-based concepts by celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, and will host a vegan food festival in January.

Dimple Khitri, founder of Being Vegan and author of Being Rawesomely Vegan: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free, Artificial Food Color Free, recommends starting by removing all animal-derived products from the home. “Keep lots of grains, tofu, soy and dairy-free milk instead, for those cravings,” she says.

“There could be times when you want to give up, so it’s important to keep a note around the house of why you chose to transition to veganism. Alternatively, you can watch documentaries to keep you motivated.”

You don’t have to be perfect, says Dubery. “It's OK to not agree with other people, even other vegans. You aren't doing this for them. Also don't feel the need to justify or defend your transition. You are taking steps to live a kinder life, which has a more positive impact on our planet. That in itself is admirable.”

I want to save more money

Vijay Valecha is the chief investment officer at Century Financial. Courtesy Century Financial

Having a healthier bank balance starts with making small steps and sticking to them, no matter the temptation before you. Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial, advises people to start by calculating their monthly spending, narrowing down on major expenses and cutting them down to make a bigger impact.

Saving money comes next. “A portion from every pay cheque should be set aside into a separate savings account,” he says. “One can set up an automated transfer from their daily spending account to their savings account each month. Or you can also set a limit on how much you spend on your credit or debit cards. This stops you from overspending and encourages you to reassess your daily expenditures in advance.”

The final step is making the saved money work for you. “To get higher returns, you need to learn about investing your wealth. Investors can see their investment grow with the effect of compounding over time,” says Valecha.

I want to become more organised

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - February 26th, 2018: Shelina Jokhiya, owner of Decluttr me, a company that helps people organise their homes or office. Monday, February 26th, 2018. Oasis Centre, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

If you’re feeling increasingly overwhelmed by your surroundings – or even the number of emails in your inbox – it might be time to take a step back and think about decluttering, believes Shelina Jokhiya, a professional organiser and founder of DeCluttr Me. The author of Can You Find It In Five Seconds? says decluttering can also do wonders for your mental health.

If you’re not quite sure where to start, she recommends “using a mini-decluttering technique so you don’t feel overwhelmed”, even if it takes a week to sort through one room. “Spend 15 to 20 minutes decluttering items from one small area in a room. The next day, move to another manageable area.”

However, even once you’re decluttered, stuff has a tendency to pile up again. For this, she recommends the “buy one, get rid of two” rule. “When you buy something new, get into the habit of clearing out two existing items – preferably in the same category that you have purchased. So, if you buy one handbag, declutter two.”

If you're feeling nostalgic about getting rid of familiar products, it helps to make a list of places where you can donate, recycle or sell – so you don’t feel as anxious or guilty, she says.

Finally, don't forget about digital clutter, and deal with it using the acronym FAT – File, Act, Toss. “As soon as something comes in, see if you can file it in a folder, act on it within two minutes or toss it into the recycle bin. When you receive junk mail, always unsubscribe before deleting it.”

I want to travel more

After the Covid-19 pandemic turned the travel industry on its head in 2020, many moved their travel plans – and resolutions – to 2021. However, there’s no denying the industry has irrevocably changed, and while travelling is still on people's agendas in the coming years, being a tourist is no longer as simple as booking tickets.

Dubai residents Zahirah and Andrew Marty, of The Travel Hub website, advise aspiring travellers to start doing their research months in advance. “From travel documentation and restrictions to possible quarantine requirements, accessibility within a country, and testing requirements, facilities and prices, you need to plan well,” says Zahirah.

At the same time, you can't be too rigid about plans. With flights constantly being cancelled, frequently updated red and green lists, and changing regulations across borders, accept there may be changes in operations, and have backup plans wherever possible.

“Also remember to travel responsibly. Taking a flight is now as much about other people as it is about you,” says Zahirah.

I want to prioritise my mental health

Aankanksha Tangri, founder of Re:Set, cautions people not to put too much pressure on themselves.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of mental health and self-care. Resolutions such as remembering to message a loved one every day, keeping a gratitude journal, or switching off from social media an hour before bedtime, are good examples of resolutions in line with this ethos.

Aakanksha Tangri, founder of Re:Set, a resource platform fostering inclusivity, mental health and well-being, further cautions people not to put too much pressure on themselves.

“Two years into the pandemic, we need to revisit how we approach New Year's resolutions. As we see a rise in mental health challenges, simply getting through the day during this time can be an accomplishment," says Tangri.

"Take each day as it comes and celebrate the small victories just as much as the big ones. Reach out to your family, friends or a professional if and when you feel it's becoming too much.” In other words, resolve to remind yourself that there's nothing wrong with asking for help.

Updated: December 29, 2021, 9:08 AM