We’re into a new year, which they say brings new beginnings. But for most of us who have made a pledge for the year, before we know it, it comes unstuck and we wonder why we had made a resolution in the first place. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. According to research, only around eight per cent of us actually achieve our goals.
So why do we do it?
Making resolutions seems to be a human trait which has been going on for centuries. According to historians, the Babylonians held a festival called Akitu some 4,000 years ago that ran for a whopping 12 days! They made promises to the pagan gods to pay their debts and return anything they had borrowed. It was pretty serious business too – it was believed that if you didn't keep your promise you'd fall out of favour with the gods, and no one certainly wanted that to happen!
New Year wasn’t celebrated on January 1 either, but during March on the lunar calendar. Today, although each culture has their own traditions, most of us tend to make a promise to focus on self-improvement in some way. New Year still falls at different times for everyone and that is the beauty of life!
Are we being realistic?
Experts say, the reason why many of us can’t keep our resolutions is because they are too broad, hard to achieve and may take longer than a year. So, if you have already given up, don’t despair – it’s not too late to turn things around! Take stock of where things are at and start again.
A poll conducted by Nielsen in the US found most Americans in 2015 were aiming high, with many resolutions being health and lifestyle related.
The top 10 resolutions of 2015 were:
1. Stay fit and healthy
2. Lose weight
3. Enjoy life to the fullest
4. Spend less, save more
5. Spend more time with family and friends
6. Get organised
7. Will not make any resolutions
8. Learn something new/new hobby
9. Travel more
10. Read more
So how do we stick to it?
The key to success is to break things down and keep it simple. Take baby steps and don’t forget to celebrate the milestones you make along the way. We all thrive on success; it certainly gives us more confidence. If you’ve thought about quitting the ciggies, just making the decision is a step in the right direction. If you’ve decided to get fit – even a walk around the block a couple of times a week is a way to progress. Someone who wants to cut down on sugar and has sugary drinks every day may make the decision to have one day to be sugar free at first.
Habits are hard to break and change is difficult. We may feel like we are climbing Mount Everest when we start. For instance as Quit Victoria explains, although the majority of smokers want to quit, they are not just breaking a habit, but tackling nicotine addiction and emotional baggage. We need to remember, that when it comes to habit, we need to look at why we started in the first place and mostly, this can be complex. We may be dealing with a spectrum of strong emotions from pain through to satisfaction.
Don't be hard on yourself
So don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan – the last thing anyone wants is stress and anxiety! As Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White says, “there is no such thing as a failed quit attempt.” And that’s good advice for all resolutions – every step you take is on the path to success.
People who stick to their goals do some planning beforehand. Document what you want – put it in your diary or calendar. Set a to-do-list – there’s nothing better than the satisfaction you get when you can tick off your achievements.
You may like to drum up support – chat with your friends and family beforehand. They know you best and can cheer you on to the end result. They may even like to join in so you can spur each other on to the finish line! Experts say that having a buddy is a great way to keep going. If you're finding it really hard to achieve your goals, don't be afraid to seek professional help.
Lower your expectations. Behaviour change takes time. Don’t stress if you have a set back. You may eat more kilojoules than you want to or haven’t visited the gym, that’s okay – no one is perfect!
Recognise the goal may take longer than a year. When the next new year comes around, celebrate your achievements and pledge to go to the next step in your plan! And you don’t have to make a pledge on New Year either, change can happen at anytime.
Don’t forget too, if you feel the pressure to have a resolution just because friends are then maybe you should think again. Are you really doing it for the right reasons? If not, then it’s probably best to opt out – after all, there’s always next year!
Our team's resolutions
And just in case you think we don't walk our own talk, here are our resolutions. Some are quite ambitious and we may just come back later in the next few weeks to see how we’re doing! Wishing everyone a healthy and Happy New Year from all of us here at Better Health Channel.
Be an organ donor
"I will join the Australian Organ Donor Register, as one organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 or more people. Around 1,500 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists at any one time. I have talked with my family and have their full support."
Ask for help
"I will ask for help. After suffering a family crisis, I realise people are more than happy to give their support. I am also going to talk to someone about my mental health."
Walking to get fit
"I'm going to change my early morning travel to work routine to improve my fitness this new year. My mum died from dementia and I have learnt that exercise can help prevent it. I catch a bus and a train to work so I'll get off the bus a stop early and walk from Jolimont station to work at least three days per week."
"I want to be more assertive. I realise I put others before myself too much and 2017 is going to be for me."
Do the poo test
"I turn a certain milestone this year, and will no doubt get that little package in the mail from Bowel Cancer Australia to do the poo test. I know it sounds horrible but I heard experts say it’s really worthwhile to do the check and rule out bowel cancer. If there are other tests and screening I need, I will do them too."
"I’m going to give blood. After a family member died of leukaemia last year, I want to help others who urgently need a transfusion. I was amazed to find out that red blood cells only last around 42 days – that’s why supplies get low. I figure donation takes around an hour of my life but it could save someone."
Go alcohol free
"Go alcohol free for a month. I might join FebFast, DryJuly or Ocsober. Friends say they feel great afterwards and the money goes to a good cause. It might be good for my waistline too – I didn’t know it is full of sugar!"
"I've worked really hard over this past year. It's been pretty stressful. To reward myself, I'm going to have a massage."
Improve our relationship
"I'm going to devote more time to my partner. We’ve had our ups and downs this year and I think we need to communicate more. I’m the talker in our relationship and I need to learn to listen. If we find it tough, I think we’ll get some counselling."
More time with kids
"Spend more time with my kids. I have been working so hard that they are growing up before my eyes! In these holidays, we're planning some fun activities – a combination of physical, art and craft. We all love cooking and will make some healthy meals. It might get them interested in nutritious foods to put in their lunch boxes before school goes back."
Cut down on portion size
"I was amazed when I saw a graphic on serving sizes and how our meals have grown over the years. I’m a bit overweight and think it’s about time I started to eat less. I might try to cut down dinner first – it’s terrible going to bed on a full stomach! Besides, I'm sure my reflux is caused from eating too much!"
"I think I’ll try and save more this year by taking my lunch to work and cutting back on coffee – I’m too scared to add up how much I’ve spent! I also tend to buy more food than I need, judging by all the gooey and mouldy leftovers I find at the back of the fridge."
Try something new
"I want to learn to surf. Even though I'm in my forties, it's always something I've wanted to do. My motto this year is – it's never too late to learn something new."
Get out of my comfort zone
"Travel to a place that's well out of my comfort zone. I’m thinking of volunteering overseas to help others more in need. It’s a little scary and I hate flying, but I really want to expand my horizons."
Start a veggie patch
"My plan is to resurrect the veggie patch. I'm going to grow and eat as many different veggies as I can. I've learnt so much about how eating a rainbow is good for your health – from protecting against cancer and heart disease, to maintaining a strong immune system. Gardening is also pretty good incidental exercise and so much easier (and more enjoyable) than committing to the gym every couple of days."
Get back to yoga
"My New Year's resolution is to get back into yoga. It has many health benefits including strengthening muscles and bones, improving flexibility and circulation, and helping to deal with stress!"