Well, there we have it. 2013 is almost over and soon the sun will be rising over a brand new year.

I do love the start of a new year, as it always presents the opportunity to draw a line under the past, wipe the slate clean, forgive and forget and start over with new healthy habits that will serve us well in the future. As one of my mentors always says: ‘the past doesn’t dictate the future’.

And yet, despite the best intentions, so many of us really struggle to stick with our new year’s resolutions and easily slip back into our old, bad habits, either forgetting our commitment to change altogether, or finding the process just too hard to maintain.

Why is that? Well the National Insitutes of Health-Funded scientists have some useful insigths and potential strategies that could help you ensure that this time next year, a new you will be looking forward to welcoming in 2015!

“Habits play an important role in our health,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Understanding the biology of harmful routines, and how to break them and embrace new ones, could help us adopt healthier behaviors.”

Habits can arise through repetition. They are normal and often helpful. “We shower, comb our hair or brush our teeth without being aware of it,” Volkow says. “This frees our brains to focus on different things.

We’re all different, and unfortunately there’s no single effective way to break bad habits, but there are a number of strategies that you can follow to help you succeed.

For instance:

1. Big hairy goals have many steps – it’s good to have a vision of your destination, but start by setting goals that are more like milestones on the journey. Once you hit these milestones, your confidence will grow and the steady accumulation of progress will lead to even more success. For example, if you’re keen to get fitter, start by setting a goal to exercise for twenty minutes a day twice a week. Once that is firmly in place, expand it to more time or more days per week.

2. Keep a journal – documenting your journey will give you the opportunity every day to reflect on your progress; what went well and not so well. Technology these days makes the task of keeping a journal, really easy, with many freely availbale platforms to use. For example, I use wordpress to capture and express my experiences in both words and pictures.

3. Don’t set too many goals – in our enthusasiam to change, we often set far too many goals which can overwhelm. I recommend setting no more than five goals to focus on and then review these every quarter which will give you the opportunity to refine and set more.

4. Keep the language positive—the words we use are so very important, so pick words that focus on what you will do, not what you will not do.

New healthy habits may be hard to embed, but it can be done. Enlist the help of family, friends, co-workers and of course health coaches to give you the support you need… particularly during the first 6 weeks, which is the time that most experts estimate is required to embed a new habit into your life.

Whatever new healthy habits you’re planning to introduce, I wish you the best of luck and a very happy 2014.