New Year's/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Why can’t we stick to New Year’s resolutions?

The resolutions I made on New Year’s Eve 2018 were to go to the gym every day and to go vegan. Safe to say that the going to the gym part lasted less than two weeks and my meddling in veganism came to an abrupt end when I couldn’t resist a cheese pizza in the first week of January.

Sadly, this is an all too familiar scenario for many of us. We all make the most unrealistic resolutions and then fail at sticking to them. Did you know that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? This is an incredible statistic but if I am being honest, I’m not at all surprised.

There are a lot of reasons, most of them particular to us as individuals, that our resolutions seem to fail year on year. However, I still think we should be rewarding ourselves for making small positive lifestyle changes each new year, no matter whether this has fulfilled a resolution or not.

To make such a drastic lifestyle change overnight is unattainable

A clear reason that most resolutions fail is that an unclear goal has been set, and we are asking too much of ourselves. To make such a drastic lifestyle change overnight is unattainable and is exactly why my resolution to go vegan failed so quickly. I now realise that going vegan is achievable, but I need to take smaller steps by introducing some vegan meals into my diet and trying to go vegetarian first.

Having specific goals, rather than vague ones which you have no hope of reaching, is important. By making precise aims, you can plan steps to take on a path to achieving these which makes the whole process more manageable. If your resolution is to eat healthier, for example, this is vague and easy to slip away from. If you instead decide to prepare and cook three meals a week that are healthy and fresh, this is more attainable. You could even start small by preparing one fresh meal a week and gradually work towards your ultimate goal.

Others may find that their resolutions fail because they feel overwhelmed. Goals that have too much pressure and expectation attached to them are often unsuccessful because they add stress to our lives, rather than improving them. A New Year’s resolution to read a book a week can become stressful if you feel like you haven’t got the time to do this, making reading feel like a chore. Instead, focusing on a more achievable and manageable task like reading a little on the bus to uni every day or reading before bed is less daunting and much more manageable.

It is never too late to adjust your resolutions to make them more achievable

If it gets to February and you find you are sick of the resolutions you intended to stick to, it is never too late to adjust your resolutions to make them more achievable. Reflect on whether your goals are valuable and necessary for improving your happiness and quality of life. If you find that your resolution to cut out chocolate is making you unhappy and affecting your mood, it might be time to change this. However, if you are determined to stick to it, simply reflect on what has been difficult and negative about the resolution and what has been helpful, then adjust accordingly.

Resolutions that only have delayed rewards and gratification mean that we don’t reap the benefits of the lifestyle changes we are making straight away. Instead, why not give yourself a small reward each time you stick to your resolution? For every day that you go to the gym, reward yourself with a nice meal, a warm bath and a film.

Remember that it is important to reward yourself for every small achievement you do make

When thinking up your New Year’s resolutions, it is important to be realistic and positive. Do not choose resolutions because you feel that you have to or because it’s what everyone else is doing.

It might be better to avoid the label of ‘resolution’ entirely and just try to make positive changes, regardless of whether it is New Year.

Finally, stop being so hard on yourself! If you don’t achieve your resolutions straight away, don’t give up. Instead, work on yourself little by little. Remember that it is important to reward yourself for every small achievement you do make.

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