Making changes for a happy new year can take time – no need to do it all today
Sarah Morgan Jones
The turning of the year, out with the old and in with the new, will mean different things to all of us.
Some people love it, some hate it, some couldn’t care less. But for many it’ll be the time to turn a decisive back on the habits or events that have followed us to this point, and to face the future with a refreshed determination, in the form of the trusty new year’s resolution.
I’m willing to bet you a Quality Street of your choice (well actually there are only the toffee pennies and the non-descript blue ones left) that if you made a list of resolutions, you will have broken at least one already.
It’s inevitable, unavoidable, it’s as traditional as getting halfway between Christmas and New Year and having no idea what day it is. We make them to break them.
This year/this relationship/this body/this job/this house is not working for us and seeking to fix whatever ‘this’ is with an iron will seems like a distinct possibility.
Right now. In the darkest and shortest of days.
When we are skint, tired, hungover, buzzing on sugar, on the anti-climactic come down of the pre-Christmas hype, in the toxic rain of the family fall-out, amid the knee-deep muddy trough of ‘meh’. The perfect time to profoundly change our lives.
Of course, the commercial world is ripe and ready for these moments, this obscure faith in ourselves that all the things we have been stacking up and putting off until the new year, can be tackled in the longest, darkest month of the year.
Booze, fags, sugar, meat are out, walking, running, swimming and early nights are in. Out with the fun and in with the gruel.
‘Go the whole hog, Mog’
Slimming clubs, gym memberships, knitting magazines offering one square a week till the end of time, download that language app, sign up to that class, join a book club, return those pyjamas, exchange them for some running shoes and sign up for a Race for Life and Veganuary and Dry January.
All await our idle hands and new sense of commitment, and if we sign up, ‘go the whole hog, Mog’, put our quids where the chips used to go… then we have to do it…right?
According to a YouGov poll, fitness (49%), diet (41%) and weight (40%) remain the top resolution motivators for the third year in a row, closely followed by saving money (39%).
Lower down the rankings are ambitions like improving our employment situation (19%), spending less time on social media (16%), consuming less alcohol (15%), spending more time with family (12%) and surprisingly low at 7% – maybe because fewer people now do it – is cutting out smoking.
The same poll suggests that from last year, around a third of respondents claim to have stuck to all their resolutions – men more so than women – close to half stuck to some of them and less than 20% achieved none of them. So, there is some evidence that making these promises to ourselves can work and can be beneficial.
Setting goals, making them measurable and achievable, giving them a time frame and keeping all of that realistic could get us to where we want to be.
Taking some form of responsibility for our lifestyles and behaviours, actions that can benefit those around us as well as ourselves, our environment and our society is always going to be a good thing. Even if we don’t entirely succeed, the focus and the intent can make us feel good.
Approaching it in an ‘all or nothing’ way, however, is less likely to be successful, as the moment we fall off whatever wagon we’ve chosen to get on may lead us to give up entirely.
Added to this, the concept of giving anything up sets us up to feel deprived from the off, and more likely to succumb when, not if, making profound changes becomes hard.
Choose more not less
Life has been difficult for so many in these last few years. We may have lost family, friends, relationships, social lives, work, opportunities.
So, it makes sense when approaching the resolutions not to take the deprivation-punishing route – giving up this and that, insisting on resistance and strict abstinence.
Instead, we could think of what more we can have – more moderation, more sleep, more healthy food, more exercise, more fresh air, more time, more books, more nurturing, more opportunities for pleasure and social contact.
We don’t need to start at the stroke of midnight, in the dark and dingey days ahead. Nor do we need to go it alone or reinvent the wheel. Seeking out resources with friends, teaming up with groups, sharing our plans with family so they support rather than police our progress will offset rebellion and resentment.
Better perhaps to take time to find what we need from the coming year, to prioritise, plan and prepare and above all remember that these changes should make us feel better, not become another source of stress.
Let’s take it easy on ourselves.