Few things simultaneously raise motivation and lower morale like making New Year’s resolutions.
On one hand, you feel inspired. It’s a new year. December’s calories and bad late night decisions don’t count in 2016, and this is the year you’ll finally drink eight cups of water a day. The year you’ll actually do that 24-hour tech detox. The year you’ll take up painting, or maybe scrapbooking.
But on the other hand, you know that approximately three weeks into your hydrated, scrapbooking renaissance, you’ll admit defeat. You somehow became engrossed in old episodes of One Tree Hill while gorging yourself on pizza and lamenting the fact that you haven’t gone within a 10-mile radius of a gym in days. The vicious cycle will cause you to decide resolutions aren’t worth it.
Making resolutions sounds like a positive plan in theory. Anything created to motivate you to be the best version of yourself couldn’t possibly backfire, right?
University of Virginia senior Haley Durmer continues to firmly believe in the power of a new year’s resolution.
“Last year I made a resolution to try and focus more on myself versus others, and it really changed my attitude,” Durmer said.
But some fail to take into account that making a strict resolution focuses on extremes, such as losing x amount of weight in y days or quitting a nasty habit cold turkey. That doesn’t allow much room for error. In fact, it almost certainly encourages failure, which in turn breeds self-resentment.
“I’m against making [new year’s resolutions] because they just set you up to disappoint yourself,” Jenny Mallette, a senior at Cornell University argued. “It’s unrealistic to expect to quit or start something immediately.”
Saint Joseph’s University senior Lindsay Hueston had similar experiences.
“We are all in a perpetual state of change and New Year’s resolutions eventually fade,” Hueston said. “It’s more effective to make resolutions that are made because you truly want to do them, not because it’s a new year and you feel like you should.”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that making such extreme resolutions like sticking to a paleo diet will lead to you wonder why on earth you’re mimicking the behavior of cavemen. A rez with no plan of action and no allowance for anything less than perfection is unhealthy, unrealistic and therefore unnecessary. In fact, according to a 2015 study spearheaded by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their resolution.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day attributes this low success rate to the broadness of most people’s resolutions.
“For example, ‘I will lose 40 pounds this year.’ That sounds like a great resolution, but how will you achieve it?” Amidor asked. “If you choose to make a long-term resolution like that, make sure you list several short-term resolutions such as ‘I will switch from drinking regular soda to water or seltzer’ and ‘I will include a fruit in at least one snack each day.’”
In addition to making vague resolutions, Amidor believes that people set their sights on unobtainable goals.
“Guess what? You will break this resolution in a few days, a week or a month. Most [people] cannot stay away from their favorite junk food, and why should they? Instead, make the resolution about healthier food you will eat,” Amidor said.
We know you want to try to fix the negative things and make each new year your best one yet. No one suggests abandoning all hope and retiring forever into a cycle of greasy foods and laziness, but this ultimate goal of achieving happiness often overlooks the process of actually carrying out that resolution.
So for all those halfway through January and already beginning the spiral of self-hate stemming from choosing cookies over chia seeds, don’t worry. All hope is not lost.
Plus, if you wait a couple weeks until the people who make strict resolutions get weeded out, you may actually get to use your favorite elliptical at the gym.