As we’re now into February, we’re assuming most of us have given up on those New Year’s resolutions we made in the run-up to Christmas. Not all of us have given up though, as Vicci explains…
The new year is when we wave goodbye to the old and welcome in the new. It is the time many of us decide to reflect on what went well last year, what we could have handled differently and what we need to do to make the new year bigger, better and even more successful than the last.
It gives us time to think about the year ahead, future plans we want to make and the opportunity to set goals to help us get there. I think self reflection and awareness are very useful, and when better, than at the end of a year or the beginning of a new one?
For the past 10 years or so, self reflection at the close of the year has led me to set my New Year’s resolutions. This used to be a single very carefully thought through resolution, but through the years this has evolved into at least 4 loose resolutions which weren’t kept beyond the 3rd day of January.
So, at the end of 2021, instead of flying into a panic about the fast approaching new year and setting a shopping list of resolutions that I most likely wasn’t going to keep, I decided to consider my resolutions more carefully. I wanted to think about why we make them, why they might not work and what I might do differently to help me make some positive changes this year.
New Year’s resolutions are said to date back as far as 4,000 years and originated with the Babylonians. The Babylonians made promises to the gods during their new year, in mid-March, when their crops had just been planted. They held a 12 day religious festival, Akitu, during which they made promises that they would repay debts and return borrowed items. If the Babylonians upheld these promises, then the gods would bestow them with good fortune.
Since this time there have been many religious adaptions of New Year’s resolutions. However, in the 21st century our New Year’s resolutions are usually more secular, involving promises and commitments we make to ourselves. This can be to maintain a good practice we already abide by or (like me) to change a behaviour that is unfavourable, with the aim of self improvement.
According to a YouGov poll, some of the top New Year’s resolutions now made by the British public include;
I have made every single one of these throughout the years, and sometimes, more than one of the above feature on my list at a time! I think these all look like really positive and realistic changes to make. So why do I (and the majority of Brits) renege on our brand new commitments before we have the chance to store away our Christmas decorations for another year?
Giving up our resolutions happens so frequently that there is an actual ‘National Quitter’s Day’, also known as ‘Ditch New Year's Resolution Day’. This day is 17th January, and it’s recognised as the day that most people throw in the towel on their New Year’s resolution.
To be honest, some years I would have been delighted to make it that far! But why is this the case? There are many suggestions as to why some of us just can’t seem to keep these promises we make to ourselves. Here are a few I frequently came across:
We overwhelm ourselves.
I have definitely done this over the years. Some years my resolutions accumulated to losing half my body weight through eating healthy, exercising, not drinking any alcohol and basically not having a social life for at least 6 months.
We don’t make them specific enough.
Now, this is something I am not guilty of. Each year I set myself strict targets. I am not allowed alcohol for the month of January, I’m not allowed to eat any bad food, I can’t go out for meals in January to save money and calories, I have to run at least three times a week on set days…the list goes on…
They are made at the wrong time.
Just because it is the end of the year, does this mean that you are in the right place mentally to make big changes to your lifestyle? Or would it be better to plan for a time when you feel motivated and ready?
After reflecting on all of this information, I think I have finally realised where I have been going wrong. First and foremost, I have totally overwhelmed myself by setting myself far too many goals, which would overwhelm the most strong willed individuals.
On top of this I have almost been too specific. I thought was a good thing to set SMART goals, but I think I have disadvantaged myself in the language I used. As a result, I had unknowingly created a list of activities I enjoy and imposed restrictions on them. I think we can all agree that we have endured enough restrictions for the last year and a half to do us a lifetime.
I also used negative language to outline these restrictions: ‘not allowed’, ‘have to’, ‘no alcohol’, ‘no bad food’. I don’t know many people who can operate with so many restrictive boundaries imposed.
And lastly, I imposed all of these things on one of the darkest, arguably, most depressing months of the year. My destiny was sealed, I was going to be celebrated (with many others) on the national day dedicated to quitters!
Although my previous attempts at New Year’s resolutions haven’t always been very successful, I do believe there is value in looking back at the past year, learning from the experiences I have had and identifying how I would like to grow.
But this year, based on all I have learned, I am taking a different approach. Instead of a set resolution (or four), I am going to set a New Year’s value, which will help me make better choices overall.
My new value is ‘to make daily choices which benefit me.’ I hope this will help guide me into making good considered choices, about my diet, my fitness and my lifestyle in 2022, but with grace and flexibility for those days that don’t pan out the quite the way I thought.