You may have them already neatly written down, they may be still distilling in the back of your subconscious, or given the year we’ve had you may have written them off for the present moment.

Yet it is this time of the year that many individuals reflect on the last 12 months, and often put together a list of what they will try to do to make the next year better, or improve themselves. While “being the best you” may be a very noble thought, actually how realistic is it, and could it be doing you more harm than good?

We are all aware that perfection doesn’t exist but some of the goals we set ourselves have raised the bar so high, that failure, for want of a better word becomes an inevitability and we come crashing back to the ground feeling worse than before we started. An interesting point is that many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by mid-January.

Naturally my column will veer toward those resolutions which benefit your physical and mental health, the two being equally important.

However, when picking any goal, among the questions to ask yourself might be, “is this change realistic, can I incorporate it into my life without other duties, responsibilities and relationships suffering, and also what do I hope to achieve by any alteration to my lifestyle”.

Many goals are sadly unrealistic. Unless you are a highly trained athlete, for the majority training hard for six days a week is unsustainable. Like working too many hours, you are more likely to suffer a drop off in performance, end up with an injury and indeed become so disillusioned that you abandon exercise altogether. We all have a certain capacity, and for most, working and exercising within sensible limits is likely to yield greater long-term gains.

Similarly, many people feel that being the best you translates into being everything to everyone, never saying no, and always presenting a sunny disposition. It is not a failing to refuse certain requests due to time constraints, lack of resources, or even because it will prevent you from doing things that you would like to be doing. Being helpful is obviously a very attractive characteristic, but make sure you don’t become the go to person for everyone and everything.

In the same vein of doing things for yourself, if because of the pandemic you’ve missed an important screening test for example a smear, or you are on a medication which requires blood monitoring and you think you’re overdue, please enquire about these. Being proactive about your health will not be frowned upon and many medical professionals will welcome your enquiry and desire to take ownership of your health.

No one can live like a saint, and while it would perhaps be wrong of a doctor to advocate “cheat days”, a healthy diet without the occasional treat, whatever that may be is more likely to have you eating well the rest of the time. Many diets are ultra-restrictive, such that you may forget the social aspect of eating, and decline offers from your friends and family to dine together. Weight loss takes time and dedication, and crash dieting is less likely to be good for the body, or be sustainable. Our children also watch us like hawks so crash dieting and over exercising may influence their perception and behaviours.

On the last point of what you hope to achieve, your goals can be very simple but should be enough of motivator so that when you waver, they prompt you to keep going. For example, you’re more likely to stop smoking because you want to run around with your children without getting breathless, or have more money to spend on nice things.

However, we all remain human, and in spite of our best intentions we will waver and we will fall. I hasten to use the word fail because of its harsh nature. When this happens, while it is important to recognise it, beating yourself up will not help, not will abandoning your resolve. It is better to accept that it happened, put it behind you, and continue with your good intentions.

Finally, many are overly self-critical and hence feel the need to have a set of resolutions in the first place. Self-improvement is a journey which often doesn’t run smoothly. The most important thing is to be kind to yourself on the way.