AMONG THE MANY reasons to celebrate the Lunar New Year is the chance to get back on track with a January new year's resolution that has already fallen by the wayside. This time you can increase your chances of success by identifying the reasons for the lapse. Now's the time to reignite your resolve to quit smoking. Don't rekindle your 20-a-day habit just because of a few recent failures of willpower. Many tobacco addicts jest that quitting is easy - they've done so dozens of times. But death or disability through a smoking-related illness is no joke, especially for tobacco widows and the children of smokers. Many would-be quitters succumb to temptation after a drink or two, because alcohol reduces willpower and judgment. Giving up alcohol for the first couple of weeks of a cigarette-cessation programme is prudent, and the detoxification effect is all the more powerful. It's not easy to forfeit both pleasures at once, but then how serious are you? If you're using nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine gum or patches, a sensible strategy endorsed by doctors, make sure you're as diligent in carrying around your gum and applying your patches as you were with your packet of 'cancer sticks' and lighter. Never put yourself in a situation where you feel compelled to cadge 'just one' cigarette off someone because you've been forgetful. Many would-be quitters stumble at the first major challenge or crisis, perhaps some worrisome family news or a sudden conflict in the office. This, like the first post-work drinks party of the New Year, is a hard time. Many ex-smokers have coped with such pressures through exercise. If your anxiety level suddenly goes up, why not go for a jog, ride your bike, go for a swim, or even take a brisk walk around the block? Exercise is an unbeatable stress buster, and is guaranteed to take your mind off cigarettes. Most people who want to quit, fail to do so several times before they succeed. Perhaps your last failure was a short while ago. This time, by managing your stress more healthily and identifying the danger points, you've an excellent chance of breaking that cycle. Now that the festive season is a distant, fuzzy memory, chances are that you're also back to your old drinking routine. As you possibly acknowledged just before January 1, the festive intake was perhaps excessive. Hong Kong is a famously boozy society, particularly in expatriate circles. If you're getting weekly or monthly hangovers again, you're consuming way too much. Alcohol is commonly used to deal with stress, and it's possible that your stress levels have risen again. But there are numerous alternatives to the deceptively calming effect of a drink. Again, exercise is worth mentioning, but so is connecting with friends, hobbies, and even playing computer games (an anti-stress strategy that my former pastor in Discovery Bay finds useful). Others swear by meditation, aromatherapy or that highly effective stress-beater, tai chi. I've found a cup of tea can replace a bottle of beer or glass of wine. And the ritual of preparing a 'cuppa' is as calming as the beverage itself. However, many drinkers find that a few rules can help them cut their consumption. Here's a list of don'ts that could benefit your liver, overall fitness, and the family, personal, and professional aspects of your life. Don't drink at lunchtime, even if you've a guaranteed siesta (and you'll need it). Don't drink on a daily basis. Besides, booze is more pleasurable only when the occasion demands. Don't quaff down a stiff drink first thing when you get home. You'll 'crash' before you get anything useful done, even if all that means is cooking up a healthy meal for yourself. Don't set out to get 'wasted' - you'll always succeed and demon drink will have more fun with you than you with it. And try this trick: set aside a day or two or more as 'dry' (you'd be amazed at how lucid and productive the next day is). If you have an addictive drink problem, you'll have to quit altogether, and may already know if this applies to you (although alcoholics are famously prone to denial). Generally speaking, if a number of close friends tell you you've got a drinking problem - you've really got a drinking problem. Alcoholics Anonymous has worked wonders in Hong Kong since 1969 and is a fine place to tackle your addiction. Again, as with smoking, exercise will help you deal with any emotional upheavals that inevitably will come your way. We generally eat more during the colder months, so there is more than a few frustrated dieters in this food-fixated city. If your post-Christmas diet is faltering, fear not, there's still time to shed that excess before you hit the beach in summer. Slow and steady is the best way. The conventional wisdom among medical professionals and most nutritionists is that fasts, fad diets and other drastic regimens do not provide reliable means of losing weight. Results can be spectacular, but they also lead to a yo-yo effect that is ultimately punishing, particularly on the heart. Nothing beats a sensible long-haul programme, based on the unbreakable truth that if you consume fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. The reason that eight out of 10 diets fail is that they are too strict and set unrealistic goals. But the best programmes, such as those offered by Weight Watchers, usually work and lead to sensible eating habits for life. Whatever approach you take, don't waste your money on diet products such as reduced-calorie meals. They contain too many additives and transfats and are over-processed. Other diet considerations: Protect your cardiovascular system by reducing salt intake. Most processed or restaurant food in Hong Kong is over-salted or contains too much soy sauce, so taste what's on your plate first before adding more. Drink more water and fewer fizzy, sugary beverages - ideally you need 2.5 litres of water a day, and Coke, even diet Coke, is an unhealthy substitute. Above all, slow down at mealtimes. You'll enjoy your food more and feel satisfied sooner. Smoking, excessive drinking and poor eating habits are the obvious big ones for any new year's fresh start, for either the western or the lunar calendar. But we're apt to overlook the psychological or spiritual aspects of our lives at these twin starting points. These often require resolutions too. There are many resolutions that can be made in this area, from personal pledges to treating your friends more respectfully, to renewing your commitment to your chosen faith. Psychology professionals say you can hardly do better than to address the issue of forgiveness, one that is often overlooked. Forgiveness is central to many beliefs, for it is important for our mental and physical well-being. Forgiving isn't easy. For major transgressions it can feel impossible. But it yields tremendous emotional rewards that can translate into physical and mental benefits. And you may find yourself encouraging reciprocity. Grudge-holders with inevitably prematurely aged faces, always seem to look as if they're pickled in their own bile. Which in a biochemical sense they may be.