It’s the second week of the new year and articles talking about New Year’s resolutions- breaking them, making them, trying to keep up with them are appearing on our newsfeeds. Have you made a resolution this year? Have you ever wondered why year after year we do this to ourselves. We spend the beginning of the year making a resolution, something we swear we will stick to and then within a few weeks, months if you’re disciplined, it’s gone. What’s the point of a New Year’s resolution anyway?
History books claim that ancient Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions over 4,000 years ago. Promises were made to their gods in hopes of having a prosperous year. Fast forward to present day, whether you believe in a god or not or whether you make a resolution as a promise to yourself or not, resolutions still exist and more than 40% of Americans take part in this ritual every year.
I believe we go through the process of making resolutions because the new year is a starting off point. It’s the end of the holiday season and it’s the beginning of 12 new months. Vacations are over and our life becomes a cycle of school, work, and routines that are repeated each week. We spend December indulging in foods and sweets we don't normally cook or eat and we think of January as a way to be more conscious of our food intake and eat healthier. We can choose to carry over our thoughts and obligations from the previous year or we can choose to let it all go and start anew. And when we feel guilty for overindulging (food, shopping, etc.) we can tell ourselves that we will change our ways and start the new year living a more conscientious life.
But does this always work? The immediate answer is no since most of us make a half-hearted commitment and easily give in to sweets, shopping deals, and tv shows instead of working out. And then the guilt kicks in and we berate ourselves for not sticking to our resolutions.
What I suggest it to throw the word "resolution" out the window. Toss it out and keep the window closed. Making resolutions do not serve us and in fact they can make us feel worse for not sticking to them.
So what do you do when you want to instill change in your life?
You focus on the result you are trying to achieve. Don't just say I want to lose weight or I want to save money. Be more specific. I want to lose 20 pounds or I want to save $1,000. And then make a plan as to how you will get there. Will you walk for 20 minutes each day or put $20 in a safe each week? Start small and make it tangible.
As to when to start, it doesn't matter when you want to start, it's just a matter of starting. You can make the commitment to eat healthier, watch less television, exercise more, save more, spend more time with those you care for at any time in the year. It does not matter if it's January 1st or September 15th, it's just a matter of taking action.
You can do it. Just start.