Did you make a New Year resolution this year? How are you doing with keeping it? Not good? Don’t worry – you aren’t alone! While 75% of people manage to keep resolutions through the entire first week of January, in the longer term the numbers fall off alarmingly!
New Year Resolutions started many years ago. In ancient times, the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts – both good resolutions to make – while the Romans made promises to the god ‘Janus’ after whom the month of January is named. In the past, I too have made well intentioned resolutions at the start of a New Year. Like many people I have had great ambitions to make changes to my life. In a survey of the top 10 New Year Resolutions undertaken by an American university, Resolutions ranged from the more obvious – lose weight, getting organised, spending less and saving more to the slightly less usual such as ‘helping others in achieving their dreams’.
So what constitutes a good New Year’s resolution? It’s all about trying to break bad habits and this is bound to be difficult isn’t it? Perhaps the problem is that most people try to set too many resolutions or alternatively make ones which they are unlikely to achieve.
It might be that now you are back for the spring term, you are finding it hard to keep your own New Year resolutions – but don’t give up just yet. Research shows that people in their 20’s are far better at achieving their resolution each year than people over the age of 50. Possibly the problem is more to do with the difficult changes you are trying to make? Perhaps you could do with a few tips to help you keep going?
I asked some of the Student Wellbeing staff if they had any helpful ideas for achieving positive change after the break. I asked them to base their advice on the types of issues which they talk about with students coming in for Counselling and Wellbeing appointments. Here are a few of their suggestions which you might like to try out:
- Be modest in your ambitions – don’t set yourself unrealistic targets such as going to the gym three times a week if you’ve never set foot in one before! This is going to be disappointing if you can’t follow through. Think instead about more realistic targets such as walking to town more often rather than catching the bus, using the stairs in the Oracle Shopping Centre rather than the escalator.
- If you are struggling to keep going on your own, perhaps ask a mate to join with you – for example exercising together, stopping smoking together – it’s much easier to keep resolutions if they’re shared.
- And if the resolution is falling by the wayside and you are starting to feel negative…one way of focusing on positive changes is to make a conscious effort to acknowledge the positive in your life every day. It’s very easy to reflect on negatives e.g. I should have gone to the gym, I shouldn’t have eaten all that pizza, why didn’t I say ‘no’? Focus on what you can do next time to keep you going. Try again. Experiment by allocating a bit of time every day to notice positive things eg. it didn’t rain today, I had an alcohol-free day, my bank balance is looking healthy for a change!
All the best for the coming year and good luck with any resolutions you might have made.