Every year we make the so called New Year Resolutions, only to break them less than a month after. Why? Why do we feel the need to repeat a pattern time after time even if we know the end result? Some suggest is due to a learnt behaviour or collective cultural belief; a new year should symbolize a new you. Professor Elliot Berkman, from University of Oregon suggests on the article Science behind making – and breaking – New Year’s resolutions by Lauren Lee KVAL News that “There’s social, cultural norms in the United States where New Year’s is a time to choose a resolution and to try to pursue it.” Yet making changes mean we have to overtake the impulse to do what we have always done – eat chocolate and chips for example – and replace it with a new behaviour, such as eating only fruit and nuts to stay fit. The reality is not all of us have the drive to stick to the change. According to the New York Times we fail because we simply ran out of will power. John Tierney states on his article Be it Resolved, “They’ve [scientists] recently reported that willpower is a real form of mental energy, powered by glucose in the bloodstream, which is used up as you exert self-control.” Tierney suggests a good way to keep up with our New Year’s Resolutions is to anticipate our own capacities and our levels of will power and based on that prepare our resolutions, rather than to create unrealistic expectations we can’t follow and consequently giving up a few weeks along the line.
Top New Year resolutions tend to be about losing weight, learning something new, quit a bad habit such as smoking, and spending more time with family. They mean we have to make a conscious effort to replace one behaviour with a new one – reprogramming the way we feel and think towards a particular life issue. But there is also science behind the lack of self control – if we take into account that will power is directly linked with the levels of glucose in our bodies, getting on a new strict self imposed diet to achieve new year resolution number one “lose weight” can be destined to end in a tragic double chocolate fudge cake before we even manage to shred a pound. As we starve ourselves glucose levels will decrease and therefore our willpower will go downhill straight into sin.
So is it all lost? No. There are a few ways you can help yourself to stay on track; first keep a record of what you want to achieve, write it down on your calendar and make sure you see t every day. If we can see “where” we want to get its more likely we stick to it, but keep in mind this method itself might be a resolution as you have to train your mind to write your goals down on a daily or weekly basis. It pays off though so it’s worth a try. Recognize your level of commitment and your will power and don’t put yourself in situations that will make you fall into temptation, for example if you are trying to quit eating cupcakes don’t go close to the bakers. It sounds like common sense but our instinct is to keep doing what we always do. And last but not least, keep it simple. Do not try to set yourself to do something it’s not realistic.
This article was written on February 2012 for The Summa Newspaper – Houston, Texas.