Making New Years Resolutions And (More Importantly) How to Keep Them
Thinking about making some New Year’s resolutions? Going to quit smoking – be nicer to your sister – finally lose that persistent 10 pounds?
If so, you’re part of a tradition that goes back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. They celebrated the new year by making promises to the gods to pay their debts and return things they’d borrowed from their neighbours.
In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar, in which the new year started on the first of January. On this day the Romans offered sacrifices to Janus, the god of two faces, and promised to behave better in the new year.
For the early Christians, the first day of the new year was a time to meditate on the mistakes of the past year and resolve to do better in the future. And in the middle ages, knights renewed their vows of chivalry in the days after the Christmas season.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA) 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions; a recent IPSOS poll says that 3 out of 10 Canadians do the same.
Living a healthier lifestyle tops the list. We vow to quit smoking, lose weight, eat better, exercise more and drink less alcohol.
Unfortunately, for many of us, our resolution to KEEP our resolutions fails somewhere around the beginning of February. Almost three-quarters of those who make resolutions fail to achieve them. The average length of time to keep to our goals is one month – 19% manage only 24 hours.
In 2007, a research group from the University of Bristol followed 3000 people who’d made resolutions. A year later, only 12% of those people had achieved their goals. The study uncovered some differences between men and women when it comes to achieving their goals:
– Men were more successful if they chose specific goals, like losing a pound a week, or if they focused on the rewards of weight loss – like being more attractive to women.
– Women were more successful when they told friends and family about their goals, and when they were encouraged not to give up when they occasionally “fell off the wagon” and reverted to their old habits.
Tips for achieving your goals:
1. Make only one resolution. Don’t make the mistake of trying to achieve too much all at once. You’ll be more successful if you channel your energy into achieving just one aspect of your behaviour.
2. Plan ahead. Take a few days to map out what it is you really want to do and how you’re going to go about it. A resolution to cut back on alcohol made on the spur of the moment while you’re hung over probably won’t stick.
3. Make it personal. Everyone you know may be planning to join a gym and work out five days a week, but if you’re not the joining kind, think of what you really want out of life and how you might achieve it.
4. For men: Set S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time based. And focus on the positive – picture how much better your life will be when you quit smoking or lose 30 pounds.
5. For women: Go public. Don’t keep your resolutions to yourself. Write them down on a piece of paper and post them on your fridge. Tell your friends and family, and ask them to help you keep to your plan. Most of all – be persistent. It takes time to change old habits and develop new ones. Everyone makes mistakes – don’t give up on yourself.