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Are New Year’s Resolutions bad for you?

We’re a week into 2020, and some of us will already have broken our New Year’s Resolutions, with others struggling to go the distance until the end of January, let alone the end of the year! For many of us, and particularly for those with mental health issues, resolutions can become yet another thing to fail at, causing us to feel bad about ourselves. However, given that on average, 80% of resolutions are abandoned by February, is it really the person that is to blame, or the whole idea of resolutions that is inherently faulty?

 

Willpower is finite

The first problem with New Year Resolutions is that the concept of ‘willpower’ being all you need to achieve your resolutions is essentially a myth. Willpower is a finite resource – every decision we make every day involves ‘willpower’ whether it is linked to our resolution or not. So if you’ve spent all day at work making tough decisions, you may experience willpower ‘depletion’ meaning that when it comes to making the decision to go to the gym at the end of the day, you don’t have any ‘willpower’ left to make the ‘right’ choice. Overweight people are often told to use ‘willpower’ to ‘eat less and move more’, but when we consider that our willpower is being used for every decision we make during the day, not just those related to diet and exercise, it becomes clear that this isn’t as simple as it seems!

 

The New Year is not actually a new start

Yes, it’s the start of a new calendar year, but how many of us start doing something completely different on January 1st? Most of us are going back to our normal lives after the Christmas period, and will soon slip back into our normal routines and habits. We used to believe that it took 21 days to form a new habit, but recent research suggests that in fact we need more like 66 days, which takes us well into March if we start in January, but as we’ve seen above most people have given up before the end of February. Other times of year may make more sense for establishing new habits, for example the start of a holiday period when you have time to embed the habit before you try and run it alongside your usual lifestyle.

 

January is depressing

There is not enough daylight, the weather is awful, and the most depressing day of the year is about to arrive (said to be the third Monday in January – which is the 20th for us this year). The environmental conditions are not conducive to getting out and about and being active, or to denying ourselves treats and creature comforts. (Although if your resolution is to read more, or watch more telly, then you might be on to a winner!)

 

So are New Year Resolutions a good idea or not?

Well, it depends! If you feel bad when you fail at things, probably not! If you’re intending to make a major change that takes up a significant amount of your time, you might struggle! If it involves denying yourself things that you enjoy, this can sometimes make you feel better after the over-indulgences of Christmas BUT if you use treats as a coping mechanism for stress then you might end up with a bigger problem than you started off with. While we might mean to be healthy by taking part in Dry January, or Veganuary, this might have the opposite effect for those of us with particularly bad diets, health issues, or alcohol dependency.

 

So in conclusion, if you feel the need to make a resolution, make it safe, and achievable – for example by resolving to get your accounts information to us in plenty of time for us to turn it around for the 31st January self-assessment deadline….!