Do you make the same new years resolutions every year only to have given up on them by February?
You are not alone. It is estimated that less than 10% of new years resolutions are actually achieved. The peak of motivation experienced at the start of the year has usually dwindled away to nothing by the beginning of February, resulting in disappointment, frustration and feelings of failure.
Here are 4 reasons why new years resolutions don’t work and 4 ways to make positive lasting changes in your life.
January is known as the most depressing month of the year. The combination of returning to work after the holidays, dark nights, bad weather, lack of money and summer feeling like a long way off can all contribute to low mood and lack of motivation.
Additionally 2020 has been a terrible year for so many of us and 2021 hasn’t exactly got off to the optimistic start we were hoping for. Stripping away the things that bring us comfort and happiness at a time when we need them most, is not most effective plan to get us through the month. Be kind to yourself and realistic about what you can do without and what changes you think you will be able to sustain.
Are you setting goals based on what you feel you should be doing rather than what you really want to do? Too often resolutions are set based on what we think we should be doing – eg. loosing weight, exercising more, spending less, stopping smoking.
There’s nothing wrong with these goals, but if you don’t actually want to do them and are only doing them because you think you should -then you are setting yourself up to fail. Think about what you actually want to achieve and why to focus on positive changes that you are motivated to make.
Setting goals introduces a gap between where you are and where you’d like to be, instantly creating dissatisfaction with where you are right now.
If this dissatisfaction motivates you to make positive changes then these goals can be helpful. BUT – if focussing on the changes you want to make stops you being able to appreciate and value who you are and where you are now, these goals can dent your self-confidence and damage your self-esteem.
Trying to change a habit without understanding the reasons behind why we do what we do, is a recipe for frustration and can mean we end up replacing the original bad habit with another (maybe worse) habit.
There are often a multitude of reasons why we do the things we do which are a complicated mix of personality, temperament, various emotional and physical needs, learned experience and patterns in your brain beyond your awareness.
If you really want to change your behavior and make the change stick, then you need to consider the root of the habit you want to change or the chain of habits that are all connected.
So if New Year resolutions don’t work – how can we make lasting positive changes?
1. UNDERSTAND WHY
Why do you do the things you do? Understanding yourself better can help you work out what is driving your behaviour.
Do you overeat because you are lonely? Smoke because you are anxious? Overspend as a distraction? Struggle to take proper care of yourself because you don’t value yourself?
Gaining self- awareness can help you understand yourself better, recognise your needs and find better healthier ways of meeting them.
How to develop greater self-awareness
Be aware of how you talk to yourself, what is the tone of your internal dialogue?
Observe how you react in certain situations, what are your default responses, habits and tendencies?
Keep and journal and reflect on your experiences
Understand how your early experiences have affected how you see the world
Be curious about how you feel and don’t discount your feelings, even the difficult and uncomfortable ones
2. FOCUS ON YOUR VALUES
Attempting to make changes because you feel you ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to is a recipe for failure. Taking time to understand what is important to you and what your values are can provide focus and fuel new commitments.
If you want to lose weight is this because you value being healthier and taking care of yourself? Do you want to curb your spending so you can save for a holiday to have some family time, or do more for charity because you value giving back to your community – you have more chance of making changes if you keep your values in focus.
Being grateful is strongly and consistently proven to improve physical, emotional and mental health.
Gratitude helps you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improves your health, helps you deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
Spending a few minutes every day focussing on what you are grateful for, boosts your brains production of dopamine and serotonin – the feel good hormones, giving you an instant mood boost.
Gratitude can change your outlook, make you a more appreciative and happier person and improve your general quality of life.
This year has certainly taught us that there is so much in life that is out of our control and this is a hard lesson to learn.
Trying to control the future, trying to change people that don’t want to change, trying to fight our circumstances or regretting the past are all a waste of your time and energy, time and energy you could be spending on living more fully now.
Learning to accept what you cannot change does not mean giving up but it is acknowledging that you are limited and not able to control everything resulting in more peace of mind and reduced anxiety.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference” – AA serenity prayer
If you feel you would benefit from gaining some greater understanding about yourself or need some support around making positive lasting change you can contact me here for a discounted introductory counselling appointment.
You can read more about restoring a sense of balance and wellbeing in your life here