As a self-proclaimed lover of spreadsheets, to-do lists and action points, and with a secret obsession of buying beautiful notepads to fill with never-ending tasks, it’s probably not surprising to hear that I love January and the chance to set more resolutions for the year ahead! It’s a time to reflect on the year gone by and the new beginnings that await in the coming months.
You might be wondering why I’m writing about this subject towards the end of January, but given that most people will by now have given up on their New Year’s resolutions, I think a bit of a pep talk is in order.
Where does the concept of New Year’s resolutions come from?
As with many traditions, New Year’s resolutions have religious origins. At the start of each year, the ancient Babylonians would promise their gods that they would return borrowed farm equipment and pay their debts. It is also believed that the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus – the god of beginnings, transitions and open doors. He is depicted with two faces, one looking to the future and one to the past. Ancient Romans would offer promises of good intentions to Janus in the hope of a positive and fortunate year. So, if the practice of making resolutions is so longstanding, why are they so hard to commit to?
Had I achieved mine from last year, by now I’d be a super bendy yogi and meditation master. Am I either of these things? Of course I’m not! I know I’m not alone when it comes to giving up on great intentions. You only have to look at your local gym – it will be rammed in January and deserted by the second week of February. In fact, research carried out by Bupa found that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to exercise and lose weight (38% of all resolutions made by those in the study). However, 56% of all people in the study failed to maintain their resolutions; the main causes being loss of motivation and/or lack of commitment.
How can we stick to them?
According to behavioural psychologist BJ Fogg, we’re setting the bar too high. In order to adopt a new habit you have to focus on something small and specific, and attach it to something you already do.
This theory was expanded further by author James Clear, who discusses the 3 R’s of Habit Change. He believes we are the result of our habits – how we feel, what we do, etc. In order to change or create new habits he suggests we need to adhere to the following three-step pattern:
How to develop a lasting resolution
Harvard Medical School lecturer Dr Marcelo Campos recommends we should write down our goals as the process of doing so creates a sense of commitment. When writing our goals we should ask ourselves the following questions to steer us in the right direction:
It’s also worth sharing your goals with others, as according to Prof Neil Levy at the University of Oxford, we’re driven by “loss aversion”. Simply put, we are more concerned about retrieving something we’ve lost as opposed to gaining something we never had. For example, if you used to be a pianist but haven’t played for years, you’re more likely to reconnect with the piano than you are to take up a new instrument.
The ‘loss’ could also be something as simple as your reputation. Levy suggests that our reputations are a driving force to succeed: “We don't want to get a reputation as unreliable, so publicly announcing our plans can be motivating.”
Don’t give up
So, if like me you want to start again and set yourself some realistic goals for 2018, here are a few tips:
Most importantly, remember that the general purpose of New Year’s resolutions is to start doing something that will make you happy or benefit your life in some way. If your new behaviour leaves you feeling fed up or disappointed, start afresh with a new goal and refocus your efforts.
On that note, I’ll leave you with a quote from Jane Fonder:
“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”
P.S. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more frequently on this blog! It will be pretty obvious in a few months’ time whether or not I’ve managed to stick to it…
Inner Wellness Massage Blog
Welcome to my wellness blog! This is where I will share all things health and wellbeing. I hope to encourage others to prioritise their own health while I continuously work to better my own.
Disclaimer: the views and experiences shared are my own and information based on health-related topics has been researched. While this blog promotes and encourages a healthy lifestyle, I am not a doctor and the content is not intended as medical advice. Always seek help from a medical professional if you are concerned about your health.