Why do New Year’s resolutions fail? Experts are looking at how to make them hold


Symbolic of the new start presented by the new year, or a way to prepare for failure at the beginning of January? Opinions on New Year’s resolutions are divided.

While some like to make a list of what they hope to achieve over the next few months, eager to tick off each achievement, others are convinced that a wishlist of things that can or cannot be done remains an unwanted nagging reminder. of personal disappointment. .

“A new year can symbolize a turning point between the past and the future, an occasion that we can call a ‘new beginning’,” says Dr Diana Cheaib Houry, psychotherapist at the Thrive Wellbeing Center. “We make resolutions to encourage ourselves to reach hard-to-reach goals without a serious decision. “

“New Year’s resolutions help individuals manifest their goals and create a vision for the year ahead that provides both direction and direction,” says Mandeep Jassal, behavioral therapist at Priory Wellbeing Center Abu Dhabi. “It’s especially useful at the start of the year to give a new perspective and a goal for the next 12 months.”

Resolutions differ from person to person and from culture to culture, but similarities often emerge in the commitments made.

Weight loss, new jobs or promotions, healthier lifestyles, and saving money tend to feature around the world, alongside new hobbies, personal care, and environmental promises such as waste reduction or recycling.

A recent survey by GoCompare of over 2,000 adults in the UK found that two in five people plan to make resolutions for 2022. Along with the usual wishes, people are also hoping to spend less on groceries and reduce delivery. of food.

Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?

The idea of ​​making promises for the coming year has its roots in religion. People used to make small promises to the gods they worshiped, for example, that they would return borrowed items or pay off debts. The Romans made their promises to the god Janus, hence the name January, inextricably linking the practice to the start of the year.

“When we want to change something in our life that makes us unhappy and unhappy, we take resolutions to solve that problem,” says Taruna Karamchandani, therapist at Miracles Dubai. “New Years is usually a popular time of year when people want to hit that ‘reset’ button and give themselves a second chance to take back control of their lives. The New Year is the start of a new chapter – a chapter for many to create something new or to do certain things well.

Why you should (and shouldn’t) make resolutions

There are benefits to making a list of the things you would like to achieve in a set amount of time. The hope that resolutions can offer, as well as the ability to believe that change is possible, resonates especially in these times of a pandemic. Resolutions can also make the changes we want to make more concrete and therefore more achievable. Not to mention that the act of writing them requires a certain dose of introspection and reflection, both on the past year and on the one to come.

“Resolutions can give meaning to direction, for example, in an individual’s career, spiritual or social life, all of which help to create a ‘growth mindset’,” Jassal explains. . “As individuals learn and expand their minds, they often find that it can help them ‘open up’ and create more opportunity in their lives. “

Alternatively, making resolutions can force individuals to adopt a cyclical rather than an organic way of thinking. Just as a person could quit their plan “until next Monday” if they break it midweek, policymakers could also be tempted to throw their commitments out the window if they break them before January 20.

More recently, the idea that adhering to a less rigid “resolutions must be made in January” way of thinking has gained traction, especially in conversations about mental health.

“A lot of people strive to achieve their goals out of a ‘need’, ‘should’ and ‘want’ of space,” Karamchandani explains. “It almost gives the impression that if the goal is not reached their life will end. This “energy of desperation” puts unwanted pressure on them, which in turn impacts momentum, so that they are likely to give up. “

Why do resolutions fail?

Listing goals from a “need”, “should” or “want” perspective can exacerbate feelings of failure.  '

Resolutions often become a list of steadfast, one-dimensional promises we make – lose weight, get a raise, meet a partner – while the life goals most likely to be successful are those that are built over the years. , which makes them difficult to quantify as a list.

“Any change takes time,” Houry says. “Change is a process that must be respected: if we are not ready to eat healthy on December 31, nothing will change much on January 1 to make healthy eating much more achievable. What we need to be aware of is that our “psychological time” does not necessarily follow physical time. “

Houry adds, “Knowing this, rushing through the process can put us under pressure and set us up for failure. We may start to blame and criticize ourselves, which can impact our self-esteem. If this happens repeatedly, we will believe less in our will and the possibility of change. It can also cause us to abandon our goals or even lose hope.

An intrinsic problem with resolutions is that they are inherently self-critical. Commitments like losing weight, joining a gym, or getting a promotion are mired in the suggestion that we, as we are now, aren’t good enough. That if we could only sort out certain aspects of our lives, we would be happy. Such an approach to self-improvement leaves little room for nuance, such as considering our personal strengths or worth before attempting radical changes.

“For many of us, resolutions stem from a validation research space from others,” says Karamchandani. “It has virtually nothing to do with how we would like to feel at the end of the day or the year, or how it might contribute to our surroundings.”

Make resolutions during a pandemic

The uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic should not derail resolutions, although a degree of flexibility will benefit list writers.  Ian Schneider / Unsplash

As the global pandemic enters its third year, resolutions aren’t the only thing that has been relegated to the pile of “things that used to matter to us.”

“The pandemic has made us realize that anything can happen at any time. In other words, things can be unpredictable and what we have planned just can’t happen, ”says Houry.

The need for PCR testing, school closings and the novelty having faded from working from home – with so much uncertainty in the world, why do anything about it?

“The routine of working from home can make it difficult for many to build relationships with their peers and socialize,” says Jassal. “As a result, individuals are somewhat limited with their New Year’s resolutions and what they can accomplish this year in particular.”

The lasting appeal of making resolutions lies in their redemptive and whitening appeal. Making a list of all the things you’ll do better this year can help dispel the ghosts of the past year’s failures, allowing you to start the next 365 days with a clean slate.

“Let’s not take several resolutions at once, advises Houry. “Change is a difficult process that requires adjustments and can be tedious. “

“With unprecedented circumstances around us, where everything moves and changes at the speed of light, the resolution we must take is to be flexible and let go of resistance,” explains Karamchandani. “The start of the year or the start of your inner journey doesn’t have to start on January 1. You can start this journey at any time of the year. What matters is that you start.

Updated: January 10, 2022, 3:56 a.m.


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