The start of a New Year is often a time to look back on what happened in the year before and think about the mistakes made - it is also an opportunity to think about the year ahead, and a chance for us to vow not to repeat the mistakes. This is done through New Year's Resolutions. A group of Researchers discussed their experience of New Year's Resolutions, answering a variety of questions on the topic.
Sometimes it is easy and straightforward to make a resolution, especially if you have a specific aim in mind. So some people have simple aims:
Another Researcher's resolution was described with the words:
This year I'm making it a bit more personal, I'm resolving to have at least one family night a month, to watch a movie or play games. Once a month might not seem like much, and honestly I'd like to try to do more, but once a month is more than we're doing now, and if I overachieve, then so much the better.
Of course, many people find it more difficult to think of something, with one Researcher confessing:
Strange how my mind goes totally blank and fuzzy when I try to think of possible New Year's Resolutions.
Perhaps the secret is to set a specific goal that you know you can achieve, rather than trying to think up something hugely life-changing that is really setting yourself up to fail.
I started making realistic New Year Resolutions in 2014. I resolved not to go to Wal-Mart. Ever. For anything. It's the first resolution I've ever kept, and I keep it to this day. It worked so well I was inspired to try again, in 2015, with swearing off McDonald's. I only went twice during the year, both times for breakfast, and I only went once that I can remember last year, so I consider that one a success as well.
Last year my resolution was to try a different locally-owned restaurant that we had never been to, every month in 2016. We discovered some of the best food! And supported our community as well.
Resolving Not To Make Resolutions
Of course, New Year's Resolutions are not for everyone. One Researcher summarised their views by saying:
I don't make New Year's Resolutions. Just because the year is new, so what? I'm the same old me, and a year from now I'll be the same old me, but a year older.
Others thought that the time of year itself is an obstacle for starting a resolution. After all, if your resolution is to spend more time outside in the fresh air, then a cold, wet month is the worst time to start. Two Researchers felt that the Spring was a much more sensible time.
January's the worst possible month for resolutions. Winter is the season of death and doom, a season that can only be survived (if that), not used as motivation for improvement. I don't bother thinking about the future until I see the tender, hopeful green shoots of April.
I wait until around March/April. I'm more likely to work on keeping to any resolutions on the longer days of the year.
Not wanting to make a New Year's Resolution is perfectly natural, as anyone who feels they are being forced into making a resolution they do not want to do is unlikely to keep it. That said, one Researcher had the opposite approach, feeling that they did not need to make a new resolution as they were still keeping one made previously.
How long does a New Year's Resolution count? About 14 years ago my resolution was to cycle to work – I'm still cycling to work, so does that mean I can renew that resolution each year or am I supposed to think up a new one?
Someone deciding to cycle to work brings up a popular New Year's Resolution area, that of trying to get fit. One Researcher who mentioned this said:
I don't really do New Year Resolutions either though if I did, mine is definitely to get fit, again, and lose the four stone of steroid induced weight-gain, despite still being on steroids... The joining the gym thing will wait until after the post-Christmas rush to join the gym.
This raises the important point that gyms, fitness classes and swimming pools are usually at their most crowded at this time of year. If you are new to these and nervous, you may well wish to go at a quieter time. It is, however, possible that beginner's classes held in January are aimed at people in similar situations with the same experience and confidence as you, and that can help keep you motivated.
It can be important to have a goal to work towards. Often, if you have people around you who have the same targets and goals as you, it can help keep you going through moments of doubt and uncertainty, although this does not always work out.
I just remembered that it was about 3 years ago now I took up running – I had an operation in January that inspired me to try and get fit. I set myself the target of doing the Great South Run because I knew a few people who had signed up to that – although they all pulled out by the day so I ended up doing it by myself.
As well as running, another popular sport is football, which inspired the following discussion:
- I've also started on a Man v Fat programme (playing in the Luton League - 6 a side. one goal awarded for every two players who lose some weight in any given week which carry forward into your game). To date, January has seen a loss of over 10lb... I had forgotten how to kick a football.
- I've forgotten why anyone would want to kick a football.
- If it helps you lose 10lbs, surely that's reason enough.
- Sorry, my lack of experience with football-kicking kept me from realising that.
- Makes sense to me to kick something that won't kick you back.
Food and Drink
This year I've been trying not to eat any chocolate or biscuits, and eat fruit such as grapes instead. It's not the same - you can't dunk a grape in a cup of tea.
Instead of making a New Year's Resolution in which you try to give up something for good, month-long challenges are becoming increasingly popular. These include the phenomenon 'Dry January'1, where instead of deciding to stop drinking alcohol forever, it is given up for a month. This is considered an easier step, with reportedly a large proportion of those giving alcohol up for 'Dry January' finding it easy to either continue to abstain completely or drastically reduce their alcohol intake.
One Researcher agreed with this, saying:
I'm having a dry January and whatever it's called, January isn't really the point... On February 1st, I won't simply return to my old pattern of drinking (and eating pies) which was increasing steadily as was my weight and my chances of dying prematurely. To date, January has seen a loss of over 10lb.
It has been argued that most New Year's Resolutions are broken by 'Blue Monday', a day defined as the third Monday in the month that is said to be the most depressing day of the year. This is based on post-Christmas debt, seasonal poor weather, feelings of lack of motivation, number of days left to wait until the next holiday and disappointment in breaking their New Year's Resolutions. This was discussed by our Researchers.
- I read in a paper today that today [Monday, 16 January, 2017] is the day when people are most likely to give up their resolutions. I wonder how true that is?
- Well, if you're a liberal American and your resolution was to quit drinking this year, I would imagine that would go right out the window today. [20 January, 2017 – the day of President Trump's inauguration]
Sadly, if people are purchasing less alcohol and unhealthy foods at this time of year, supermarkets and producers' incomes are reduced. They consider it their business to entice us back to the wicked ways we have resolved to abandon.
It always amuses me that at this time of year things that people have given up, like alcohol and chocolate, especially multi-packs, go down in price just to tempt people back into buying them.
One of the most frequent, and hardest, resolutions made is to stop smoking. Two Researchers have managed it and have shared their experiences on how they managed it.
I've never made New Year's Resolutions, but 13 years ago I quit smoking. I say that in a specific way. I QUIT smoking on New Year's Day. I smoked a carton and a half, roughly, after that. I didn't resolve to, and I didn't have my last cigarette that day, but I did change from a smoker to a non-smoker on a New Year's Day.
The second Researcher had a similar experience:
February 6th is two years since I finished smoking... I just got told I should quit, came home and smoked everything in the house for a couple days, and then it was the sixth and I didn't smoke again since.
A brief summary of how they managed to succeed where so many people fail is to accept that you may well have moments of weakness, but that is par for the course and a step along the way, not the end of the journey to quitting.
When you're ready to quit smoking, pick a day and consider every day after that as a day you were a non-smoker. You will smoke after that day and you should NOT feel guilty for it or feel that you failed. You WILL think about how bad it tastes and feels to smoke every time you do. After a month of not smoking a single cigarette you'll be clear of the physical addiction. The key is not feeling guilt or failure when you 'slip' and using that as an excuse to just going back to smoking always.
I Will Survive
By far the most popular resolution was perhaps the simplest – to survive another year. This led to the following comments:
- This year, my resolution is simply 'survive', because who can predict what is going to happen.
- 'Surviving' is a good New Year's Resolution though... I think I like that one.
- If my success rate with resolutions is any reference - I think that this year's of living to see another New Year is short of chances...
Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
Another Researcher has tried to get to know the people he works with better. After all, many of us spend more time with our work colleagues than friends and family.
Last year my New Year's Resolution was to try and get to know the people I work with better. I emailed everyone in my team (about 20-25 people) asking if they'd like to meet up and have lunch sometime, in the pub or café of their choice. Our team was created two Augusts ago when we were 'realigned'. As part of the realignment people were shuffled into new teams at random. My team, though, is scattered over 8 different rooms and there's only 3 or 4 in my office (originally 4, currently 3). I was only asking for an hour in a café or pub of their choice at lunchtime at a date and time to suit them, starting in January. Later that year I asked if anyone wanted a game of crazy golf in the park across the road. The only people who responded were the people I've met up and had lunch with in the past...
One Researcher speculated that a lack of money might influence people to give things up in the New Year:
I do wonder sometimes about the real reason things are given up in January. Lots of people get paid before Christmas in December, which they use to buy Christmas presents and, presumably, double-discount sofas in the Boxing Day sales. If they then wake up at 5pm on New Year's Day with only £42 left on Earth to last until next pay day on January 31st, it's no wonder they give up choc and champagne...
Another Researcher agreed, stating:
When our pay system was entirely dealt with by pencil and paper... they thought that they were doing us a favour by giving us the full month of December in one pay. Very few people that I ever knew were able to fully stretch that December 15th pay (usually in cash) until January 15th.
This led to the speculation:
Maybe they have to live on frozen dinners from the Dollar Store (or UK equivalent) for a month?
Ah. The dollar store. The UK equivalent is the Pound Shop (sometimes 99p shop or similar). Today the dollar is worth about 79p. Does this mean that things in the dollar store are 1/5th smaller or 1/5th crappier?
Discussing products purchased from the Pound Shop leads neatly into a discussion on clutter.
Imagine No Possessions
Tidying the house and specifically getting rid of any accumulated clutter is also a number of Researchers' priority for the forthcoming year. Researchers who mentioned this have said:
My [resolution] is to declutter, but a bit more seriously than any attempt in the past.
Another popular month-long event is the 30-day declutter challenge:
The 30 day thing is a good idea, I've half-heartedly done it before. The plan is to throw one thing on the 1st, two on the 2nd and so on. That could be 465 bits of uselessness by the end of a month. I don't mind if I miss a day, but just carry on with the right amount for the date. So far today I've chucked a pair of scratched sunglasses, a permanent marker with no ink, a pair of socks, two bits of the hard protective plastic that comes with new ink cartridges and the broken lid of a snap-top sandwich box. I've kept the box itself, apparently one of the tips to declutter is to use things you have already to put other things in.
As with many ideas that can be a New Year's Resolution, some Researchers do this as a matter of course. Researchers have said:
I have an ongoing policy to get rid of things I don't use at least once a year. This isn't a resolution so much as standard operating procedure.
One Researcher put into words something that many others were doubtlessly thinking:
I wish I was better at that. I'm drowning in kipple2.
Yet nostalgia can make throwing things away difficult, with one Researcher confessing:
Right now, in the middle of my living room, is a stack of notebooks from my college photography classes. Why I can't just take the whole stack and toss them, without at least looking through them, I don't know. They've been sitting there for nearly two months now. I thought I'd just toss them when I found them, but I skimmed through one and was rather impressed by the notes I took. But I know I don't have time to read through them so they need to go. I thought leaving them in the middle of my living room floor would motivate me to throw them away, but my powers of procrastination are impressive.
The previous Researcher's powers of procrastination leads us neatly to this topic. Surprisingly, procrastination was a popular choice for a New Year's Resolution, with Researchers saying:
- I once had procrastination as a New Year's Resolution - but I just kept putting it off to another day.
- One of these days I'll join the Professional Procrastinators of America.
This raises the question:
If good things come to those who wait, why is procrastination considered a bad thing?
Maybe we should put making New Year's Resolutions off until next year...