Sunday, 5 January 2014

Are making New Year's Resolutions the healthiest way to start your year?

I didn't want the first week of 2014 to pass without writing something about people's fixations for making New Year's Resolutions every year. Don't mistake me in thinking that I'm a cynical and pessimistic kind of person, New Year's Resolutions are a great way to embrace the new year with a list of the things you really want to achieve, work on, experience etc. However, when did it become socially unacceptable to not make resolutions? At the beginning of every year the inevitable question is asked by others "So what are your New Year's Resolutions this year?" and the general consensus if your answer is "I'm actually not making any resolutions this year" is that you either aren't ambitious, steadfast, future-thinking or motivated enough or you are depressed about the new year. These may be partly true or all true, you may be dreading the year ahead or you may not want to or feel the need to change anything in your life. On the other hand your aims for the coming year may not be as clear and concrete in your mind as in others. You may just have a general idea of where you would like to be in your life. Just because you haven't sat down and plotted out this next year doesn't mean you don't have hopes and dreams of the future. It doesn't mean that you are blindly entering 2014 with no direction. It doesn't mean that you are accepting that you can't get better/be better/feel better. It doesn't mean part of you has thrown in the towel or is apathetic about life. And it doesn't make you any worse than other people who have made New Year's Resolutions.
Another point that comes to mind when thinking about New Year's Resolutions involves the words 'pressure' and 'fail.' Does it really help people live happy and fulfilling lives for there to be so much pressure surrounding keeping New Year's Resolutions? Being branded or branding yourself as a failure if you don't manage to attain all your resolutions for the year is such a negative cycle to get into. Doing a quick search online for statistics in relation to New Year's Resolutions there are numerous articles and lots of research into how many people achieve all the goals they set themselves at the beginning of the year. A study in 2007 at Bristol University found that 88% (out of the 3000 involved) did not keep their resolutions, other statistics suggest as little as 8% of people who make resolutions actually succeed in their target. Articles giving advice on being successful in achieving them are generally titled along the lines of 'Why New Year's Resolutions fail. Here's how not to fail yours.' and 'Only ...% of people succeed in their New Year's goals. Our advice on how to be one of them.' The articles may be fantastic and may contain lots of useful tips and advice on keeping to your goals but it does create a sense that there's an 'us' and a 'them' scenario. Of the people who make resolutions there becomes two groups, those who 'fail' and those who 'succeed.'
I think a more healthy way of approaching New Year's Resolutions is to keep any ideas achievable and more general. For example instead of saying that you would like to run this year's London Marathon in under 6 hours why not make it that you would like to just run more. Or instead of setting a target to cut out dairy, wheat and sugar from your diet you could make it a little more flexible by cutting down on them by not buying cakes or cheese with your usual shopping or just eliminating one of them as a more manageable goal. I think the most important thing to do is to not think that it's the be-all and end-all to set and achieve New Year's Resolutions. A few little targets are a great thing to keep in mind throughout the year as a motivational tool but not as a way to beat yourself up or make yourself feel like an underachiever or failure. In conclusion, if you're going to make New Year's Resolutions this year then try to make them more realistic and attainable. Having someone who knows what it is you want to achieve can be a helpful thing or doing something as a joint resolution can be a more fun and fulfilling pursuit than going solo.
Whatever your wishes and goals for 2014 I hope that it's a wonderful year for you all.

2 comments:

  1. You make a good point, it is a lot of pressure to put on yourself! I've got a couple in mind, but hoping to get generally have a better year! xx

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  2. Thank you. :)
    Yes, I also have a few 'goals and aims' for the year, but the important thing is keeping these in an achievable framework.
    Be kind to yourself.

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