Why I Don’t Believe in New Year’s Resolutions
Why wait until January to change if you can do it now?
Written by Jenn Giamo
Resolving to make healthy lifestyle changes in the New Year is the equivalent of “I’ll start my diet on Monday” proclamations. They usually don’t stick. But why? We have good intentions; it seems to be the perfect time when the calendar is marking a new year and transitions are customary. Right?
As a health and fitness professional, it would make sense for me to encourage these resolutions and cultivate the desire towards better health. And I do, but not in the way you might think. Making New Year’s Resolutions specifically has always made me cringe a little. Sure, it’s a busy time of year for me and I love helping new clients. However, the ones who start in January are slightly different than those who begin in, say, August.
You may have even experienced this for yourself. You go to your regular yoga class on January 1st and there is a crowd of students you’ve never seen before. For the next few weeks, you arrive early to make sure your mat gets a good spot. Maybe you even make a few new yoga friends. Slowly but surely, each week there is more and more space for your mat. And those friends? They’re gone.
Resolutions tend to last about 6 weeks when it comes to health and fitness. A study from 2016 published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin investigated New Year's resolutions and found that 55% of resolutions were health related, such as exercising more or eating healthier. However, according to U.S. News & World Report 2018, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. Clearly, the odds are against you.
So how do we change this? What is it that stops us from continuing down that healthy path? Why can’t we stay motivated? Are we just doomed to fail? With all our good intentions, getting healthy seems to elude us.
Here’s my philosophy: when your resolutions are born from guilt, they are never going to be permanent. Holiday remorse is often the catalyst for change. We overindulge, abandoning any restraint during the holidays with the goal of getting back on track in the new year. When that plan eventually fails, we feel defeated.
The problem is that we never actually agreed to these resolutions in our minds. They were things that we thought we “should” do and because we ate and drank with wild abandon from December 25th - December 31st, we “should” go to the gym on January 1. We are already setting ourselves up for failure. The word “should” is inherently guilt and shame provoking. It is not decisive and leaves us with the option to bail. It’s too non-commital.
The reality of making lifestyle changes is that they are not easy. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. But change in any form involves a certain level of discomfort. That is why the shift in mindset must take place in order for sustainable change to occur.
So how should we approach a lifestyle change, whether it comes at the beginning of the New Year or not?
1. Make up your mind to change. Real change does not happen from the outside in. Unless we get our heads straight, our bodies will not comply.
2. Small steps. We have all had that weekend-warrior experience where you haven’t trained in months and then decide to do a 5K. Think in terms of one achievement at a time. Decide to drink 10 glasses of water a day. Keep a checklist and mark off each time you finish a glass. Keep it simple.
3. Cultivate mindfulness. This may sound like a silly buzzword but it actually works. If your awareness is heightened, you can identify self-sabotaging habits and destructive behaviors. Therefore, thwarting their potential damage.
4. Enjoy the journey. Instead of dreading the gym or anticipating with horror the idea of a salad for dinner, find ways to make it fun. Take a healthy cooking course or workout with a friend (which also helps to make you accountable).
5. Set a specific, measurable goal with a plan of action. Instead of “I will run 3 miles everyday”, why not train for an organized run? Sign-up for a 5K, 10K or even a marathon. The training schedule will be built in and you have an event to look forward to. It also feels greatto complete a challenge like that!
If you would like more guidance on goal-setting for a healthy lifestyle, please contact us! We are here to help if you must make those New Year’s Resolutions!