January is the month of New Years’ resolution, which means everyone will be eating better with their new diets, going to the gym to exercise, and promising to have a stress-less year. Well, that’s what you’d think. To be honest, this short term goal only lasts 2-3 weeks, tops. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have these aspirations to start the year off right but let’s be real with ourselves, how many of us make a goal and then completely put it on the back burner or just get too busy to achieve that goal to only find you are right back where you started next December?
Instead of being all gung-ho about setting your new resolutions right at the beginning of the year, my advice is this: SCREW IT! That being said, my reasoning is this. When December is over January shoots through like lightening. You just got over eating a boat load of food and we are still in the season of winter which means your body is still in relax mode. Imagine being in your most relaxing state of mind, laying on a beach or sitting at the spa, even on a nice nature walk, and all of a sudden you have to get up and go run a 5 mile race. Doesn’t sound very nice does it? Well that’s what happens at the beginning of the year.
Every year I see the gyms overloaded with people and everyone is talking about the latest diet trends they are on, but my question is, why does everyone do this to themselves so early in the year? It’s almost like you are a setting yourself up to be stressed out. When I think about January, I feel like this month is a time for reflection versus looking toward the future. Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.
Things like losing weight, eating better, stopping a bad habit, or reducing stress aren’t goal specific, meaning that these goals are too vague and you’ll be more likely to deter from these goals a lot faster. A better idea would be to specify what you would like to do with each goal like, losing 10 pounds in 1 month, eating 1 cup of vegetables a day, decreasing the amount of sugar you eat or cigarettes you smoke, or drinks you have to once on a weekend, or having time for yourself once a week. When you set realistic and specific goals you are way more likely to achieve those goals.
Another idea would be to wait it out. Wait until February to start your goals and make January a time for setting a game plan on what goals you’d like to focus on first.
Find your resources and pick a day on when you’d like to start!
What I started just 2 years ago was, when my family and I celebrate new year’s, we write out a list of all the things we would like to achieve for the year, making them as specific and realistic as we can. When we are finished we put it on the fridge so that we are able to see it every day and so that the family can see it as well. We rely on each other to remind one another on the progress of our goals. When you have someone to answer to it motivates you to actually work toward your goal. And when we have achieved a goal we cross it out. The next year we see how we did in achieving the goals on our list and anything we didn’t do we carry on to the next year.
Your environment is one of the most influential aspects of your life. It molds you into who you are today. If you are in an environment that pushes you to a lifestyle that is undesirable, then it is up to you to change that. Your diet, physical well being, emotions, and beliefs are all factors of the environment you grew up with, and have formed into a habit rather it be negative or positive. With this in mind it is important to know that when you are making changes, especially life altering changes, that it will take some time to get to where you want to be. Your body will take time to detox if you change your diet and it will also take time for your body to adjust to a new exercise routine. It will take time to stop your bad habits, and it will take time to relieve emotional stresses. Don’t set high expectations with the notion that everything will have fast results. Let time be your friend, you have a whole year to achieve your goals!
Many people have an assumption that all you need is 21 days to break or form a habit and interestingly enough, this number comes from a widely popular 1960 book called, “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed his patients seemed to take about 21 days to get used to their new faces.
However, according to a 2009 study, the time it takes to form a habit really isn’t specified. Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days and even further, individual times varied from 18 to a whopping 254 days.
The take-away message here is that if you want to develop a new behavior, it will take at least two months, and you shouldn’t be upset if three weeks doesn’t do the trick – for most people that is simply not enough. Stick with it for longer, and you’ll end up with a habit you can keep without thinking and will get you to where you want to be.
For this year, don’t try to overstress on the New Year’s resolution and jump the gun. Take your time and relax for the rest of the winter. Start making plans on what you would first like to achieve and then work slowly toward that goal.
What I have learned is that we as a society have this concept of time that is moving too fast the busier we get. We have this social construct of needing to make changes real fast and get fast results. The truth is none of this will benefit you. You’ll end up working too hard and then over exhausting yourself, making you feel discouraged and then losing sight of your goal.
When the holiday season winds down, reflect on what you would like the outcome of this New Year to be for you. Make slow changes for yourself and remember that these goals are meant to benefit you, no one else. You can do it, I know you can!
Happy New Year,