4 Actually Scientific Reasons Why Our New Year's Resolutions Fail
The Debrief: Are your January good intentions grinding to a halt? Here are the legit, scientific excuses for our terrible willpower
Most of us have some sort of fresh start in mind when we kick off the new year. Maybe it's all the booze, maybe it's all the food, but there's something about New Year's Eve that genuinely makes us believe we're going to spring out of bed the next morning to head to the gym, kale smoothie in hand.
But it turns out the next morning's rancid hangover isn’t the only reason why most of us admit to failing our New Year’s resolutions within the first month. In fact, studies have found that just 8% of people actually manage to stick to their new year goals - and scientists think they know why.
1. We don’t understand the real reasons why we want to change
There's a massive cult of self-improvement surrounding the New Year - apparently 1 in 3 British people aim to lose some weight in January, which is a massive amount when you think about it. Cue the annual influx of miracle weight loss products and detox diet plans. With so much advertising and even the media playing on the fact that that we may have eaten just a liiiittle too much over Christmas, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming you must need to up your health game, simply because everybody else is doing it. When we don’t understand exactly why we want to do something, it’s unlikely we’re gonna see it through, explains psychology professor Dr. Ellen Lagner. The fix? Put a bit more thought into your resolutions, and think of a specific goal that you genuinely want to achieve. Write down what accomplishing said goal will mean to you, and then look back every time you feel your willpower depleting. Or else just revisit another month, when it's all about what you want, rather than following what everyone else is doing.
2. We take on too much too quickly
There’s something about the start of a New Year that makes us feel a bit like Superwoman. 2016 is THE year for us, and we’re going to go to the gym every day, cut out carbs, read for 2 hours every evening and cycle to work, all without touching a drop of booze. Come the 6th (hey there!), we’re feeling a little fizzled out, frustrated that nothing's working and slowly starting to revert back to our old-but-comfortable habits. With fitspiration and radical healthy eating accounts popping up all over social media, it’s easy to see how we fall into the trap of biting off more than we can chew as we try and emulate a bunch of toned lycra clad women who beckon us into the world of unrealistic body images and exclusion diets. Before you commit to a lifestyle changing resolution, consider what you can actually achieve and base your goals around that, rather than trying to do everything at once.
3. We're being too harsh on the 'old us'
Toasting to a ‘New You,’ and starting a plan of self-betterment can end up being a little harsh towards the old you. When thinking of resolutions, it’s all too easy to concentrate on what we don’t like about ourselves, and the things that we want to change. When we focus on our flaws, we can end up falling into a downwards spiral of negativity that totally eats away at our motivation. Philosophers refer to the Law of Attraction – and no, this isn’t a term from GCSE physics. The theory claims that we are like giant human magnets, attracting the things that we focus on into our lives. Meaning if we focus on the negative, we’re attracting negativity. So instead of concentrating on what you want to give up, try adding something new into your life – a new hobby or gym class. You’ll be thanking us soon as the endorphins kick in!
4. We put too much pressure on our brains
Seriously. The part of our brain responsible for our willpower, the prefrontal cortex, is coincidentally the same part that is in charge of memory and stress. A study was even carried out in which participants had to remember either a two or seven digit number, and were then given a snack with the choice of a fruit salad or a slice of cake. The study found that those remembering a seven-digit number were overwhelmingly more likely to choose the cake! No joke. So, one hard day at work, and we’re already giving up our January good will. What to do? Don’t lose motivation the first time you give in, and if you happen to break your resolution, no biggie. Have a relaxing day off, and your willpower will thank you for it later.
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