Wellbeing experts reveal the New Year's resolutions that just don't work
It’s easy to get swept up in the idea that come January 1, all issues of willpower and busyness will dissolve away and you will finally be able to achieve all your goals.
When reality hits, and you realise it may be a New Year, but you’re the same old you, with all the time constraints and motivation struggles you had before, it’s quickly followed by disappointment.
They key to avoiding that post-New-Year deflation isn’t to just push yourself harder – it’s to avoid making resolutions that just don’t work in the first place.
There are certain pledges we attempt every NYE that are built to fail, and that will only leave us feeling defeated.
We chatted with wellbeing experts to find out which resolutions they definitely don’t recommend.
The dieting resolution
You know the one: you’ll start exercising five times a week, you’ll lose Xlbs by 2022, or you’ll join yet another slimming club.
Despite this having never worked before, you still find yourself sticking rigidly to a failed resolution from NYEs past.
Astrid Longhurst, author of Romancing Your Body, warns against all these harsh weight loss resolutions that don’t get to the root of your issues, and says it’s vital to try something genuinely new rather than putting yourself through your annual punishment ritual.
Astrid says: ‘Albert Einstein is widely credited with the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”.
‘While this may not be “insane” it’s certainly not helpful to keep joining a slimming club for the 10th time and expect it to have a positive result.
‘In order to make any lasting change in your life, you have to take a different and new approach!
‘When it comes to weight loss the key question to ask yourself is, “What have I learned from all my previous attempts at losing weight?” The key to your success lies within your answer.
‘Ultimately, it’s not about the food, but the relationship you have with food. If you really are determined to go down this road again ask yourself, “What makes it different this time?”.’
The resolution to always be positive
Allow yourself to feel your feelings, rather than slapping a happy face sticker on any challenge that comes your way.
Nicky Taylor, co-author of Be More Kid, tells us: ‘Being more positive may seem like a great resolution – but does turning everything into a positive really help?
‘In short no, not necessarily! We agree that people with a positive outlook are usually less stressed and overall healthier – yet it’s also important to be aware that for some, positive thinking can actually have a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.
‘People who continually look for the positive in every situation may be avoiding their feelings.
‘This can be for many reasons, including fear of losing control of their emotions – even worrying that people won’t like them if they are not always cheerful and upbeat.
‘It’s okay not to feel okay – feeling emotion can actually be good for you short term.
‘Positive thinking is a great starting point and needs to be combined with positive action – without action, most situations remain the same and that can lead to disappointment.’
The relationship resolution
‘New Year’s resolutions to make your relationship happier over the next twelve months are usually founded on good intentions,’ says Neil Wilkie, founder of online couples therapy platform The Relationship Paradigm.
‘But resolutions about relationships don’t tend work – for three good reasons:
- ‘Differing desires – Both of you need to be equally committed to change and making the investment of time and energy needed. Without this, one of you will feel you are carrying the burden and it’s not going to happen.
- ‘”It’s their fault” – This may be unsaid but there is often the view that “if only they changed, we wouldn’t have this problem”. Change will only happen if both partners accept their responsibility.
- ‘It’s all too difficult – If the relationship has been in a bad way for some time it may feel too difficult to make what seems like a huge change, of bringing back the magic of being in love. Like the 20 stone doughnut addict wanting to get down to 10 stone, it feels a huge step. The reality is that significant relationship change can be triggered by a small relationship ripple.’
Basically a major overhaul that has to be done in 2021 adds a lot of pressure to a relationship.
Start small and get specific – maybe you could resolve to do a weekly date night, or work on being a better listener?
The good/bad habit
Manley Hopkinson, the author of Compassionate Leadership, says that resolving to take on new habits and give up bad ones just won’t work – you need to look deeper.
‘We do what we do to make ourselves feel good, to fulfil our sense of self-worth is driven from deep within our subconscious and is laid down early in our life,’ says Manley.
‘The best way to look at it is to consider ourselves as an iceberg. As I’m sure you know only about 1/9th of an iceberg is visible above the surface.
‘The bit we see represents our behaviours and the 8/9ths below is what makes us behave as we do; as we go deeper from the surface we are driven by our thoughts and feelings, values and beliefs, needs and fears, our life experiences, and deep in the dark waters our nature and nurture.
‘Our beliefs sit at the centre of our hidden iceberg and are the core influencer of our behaviour.
‘So, why do our resolutions melt away so easily? Because you cannot jump from one iceberg to another, from one behaviour to another.
‘You need to journey deep into your iceberg and change your belief to align it to the new behaviour; a new behaviour needs a new belief to make it stick.’
The vow to be zen
Look, sometimes you’re going to be stressed, anxious, and annoyed. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Rather than vowing to ‘clear your mind’ and do meditation the ‘right’ way, try resolving to just give it a go, so you don’t give up the moment it doesn’t work out perfectly.
Marion and Linda Williamson, authors of My Mind Won’t Shut Up! Meditation for People Who Don’t Meditate, tells us: ‘If you’ve tried meditation and given up because your mind won’t shut up, then you’re in good company.
‘Meditation has tons of woo-woo baggage attached, so let’s be clear – meditation has bugger all to do with clearing your mind, sitting in lotus position or finding oneness with the universe.
‘Meditation is paying attention to what is happening right now, noticing when you get distracted by your thinking, then going back to paying attention to the present moment.
‘Everyone has a torrent of crap going on in their minds and it’s usually negative. Meditation can help you manage this by giving you a little bit of distance from the internal gibberish.
‘It’s not a panacea and it won’t make you better at Kung Fu. Meditation shows you that your mind is slightly bonkers, and in accepting this you learn that not all your thoughts are worth responding to.’
The dramatic behaviour change
So all New Year’s resolutions, pretty much.
Matt Casey, the author of The Management Delusion, doesn’t believe in assigning goals the arbitrary pressure of being New Year’s resolutions.
‘New Year’s Resolutions are like most of the ceremonies we carry out – they’re symbolic, and they achieve almost nothing,’ he explains.
‘Have you ever been to a gym in January? It’s packed. But by February those new people are gone.
‘Our ceremonies give us a reason to wait to start something when we should really just be doing it, and the inspiration they give us to get going rarely leads to meaningful or long lasting change.
‘The ceremonies we follow can convince us that life occurs in timeboxes, but it doesn’t, those only exist in our minds.
‘Life is really just one day after another, and there’s no difference between January the 1st and any other day.
‘Whether it’s waiting for a meeting before talking about something, or waiting for a specific event before changing something, we spend far too much time waiting and not enough time doing.’
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