As time evolved and societies have changed, what began as a practice of hope and intention to improve one’s life by the Babylonians, has been adapted by many industries, with the health industry gleaming the spotlight for many years. In 2021 the most popular resolutions included eating less meat, moving more, practicing more self care, more kindness, spending less time on social media.
However, according to the infographic from GWI Zeitgeist below, despite these more meaningful and life enhancing goals, the figures show that most people don’t achieve their goal, intention over the longest term.
This evidence is reflective of many of our lived experiences – most of us have dropped our resolutions by the second week of February.
New Year feels like hope and a fresh start.
In essence, the concept does feel like a good idea. What’s the harm in motivating ourselves towards a goal, towards changing a pattern of behaviour, or even starting something new and exciting?
However, given the rate of adherence to these goals, it is worth considering if these unrealistic expectations of ourselves are in fact harming our health, both in the future and, as we build up to this big change, the present moment.
It feels true for most of us that we create these big grandiose lists that are, well, unrealistic and difficult to achieve.
This year I am going to:
- Spend less time on social media
- Learn a new skill
- Practice more self-care
- Lose weight
- …and the list goes on.
Does anyone make just one commitment at New Year and stick to it?
Trying to get through these long lists can turn into a vicious cycle for anyone. For many, the expectation we put on ourselves can result in the opposite effect from our starting point. Instead of feeling motivated and enthusiastic like we did about this new beginning in January, we actually end up feeling demotivated by our resolutions.
A key problem is that we make loose and vague attempts to change without taking the time to actually sit down and create an intentional plan. Psychologist Megan Call shares that change is hard, unfortunately it is full of ups and downs and takes longer than we would really like. The harsh reality of change is that there is failure and lapses, and learning to manage those episodes in your life might just be the catalyst for your change this year.
So do we drop the notion of New Years Resolutions then?
There are ways to make healthy New Year’s resolutions that focus on how you feel rather than how you should BE in the world. New Year’s resolutions do not have to be complex or plentiful. For most, our already depleted stores of energy respond to big tasks with overwhelm and our brain’s automatic reaction to failure is enough to stifle our attempts.
What sets us up for failure is not the goal or the intention – it’s the attitude we have to our own self and how we manage our mind as we work through change.
How do you cope with failure?
For most, a small setback means that we fall off the wagon and use the small slip to allow mindless self-talk take over and engage in destructive behaviour as a form of penance for our minor indiscretion. “Sure I have broken this now, I may as well stay going”
Sadly, many of us aren’t even aware of how we speak to ourselves at these times, but you will know the feeling of failure, guilt and shame that I refer to.
Here’s some self-talk that is not helpful to your overall feeling of health, wellbeing and happiness:
“I always fail at Resolutions.” – Your brain hears those words and when you try to change the pattern of behaviour, your brain doesn’t need you to repeat the message about that incident, it has already decided that you can’t do it.
“I am so bad for breaking my diet” – When you offer yourself this statement, you are judging yourself on the one slip that happened and you are quickly forgetting all the wonderful accomplishments you have made. How can you expect positive results when you don’t look for them?
“I wish I could think like a thin person.” – This kind of self-talk can make us feel like we are never good enough. We constantly think thoughts to make us feel like we should be like another person. You can’t be someone else no matter what aspect of your life you are comparing yourself in.
Slips will happen during change. That’s reality.
If one of your goals this year is to direct your attention to your eating patterns and supporting your health, commit to making your self-talk positive and supporting.
1. Stress itself might have created the slip so concentrate on your breath to bring your body and mind back to soothe, so you create choice in how you respond to the minor indiscretion. “I remind myself to breath so that I can make a choice that feels good for me”
2. Create thoughts with intention on what feels good for you but also that you are the boss. . “I will eat until I am full and stop” is clear for your mind to understand that you know what you are doing and you will feel stronger when you act in this way.
3. When you lapse, instead of allowing the shame, guilt and judgement make you feel worse, could you offer yourself compassionate words. “I am kind to myself even though I failed at the diet” “I am proud of myself even though I have failed because I know I can get back up again”
4. So as you create your intention of change this year, remember our human brains are very quick to throw a strop when we want to change. Shake things up, throw it some love and kindness and see how it responds.
Commit to less change and spend time truly reflecting on what you desire.
Be committed to the actions you need to take, to achieve your desire.
Embrace failing, as part of the process and learn how to manage the slips.
Be mindful of how you talk to yourself, question the unhelpful thoughts that you have.
Here at Ciall Health, we believe that employees who are happy and healthy are an essential component for a company to continue as a productive and sustainable business. We encourage employees to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, through building strong foundations in what they eat and how they live. To help you or your employees get the New Year off to a better start, read our about Jumpstarting Healthy Changes in Your Life Webinar where we share more ideas on making simpler and sustainable changes and get in touch to see how we can support your team.