How effective are New Year’s resolutions?

Managing the new beginning in a New Year

Do you remember the feeling of getting brand new school supplies at the beginning of the school year? What could be better than opening up a new notebook for the first time and writing in it for the first time to feel the sense of a new beginning?

But unfortunately, my notebook would usually start with the most neatly written pages, which then deteriorated as time went on. As the everyday routines of daily living began to take control of my life, my desire to do my best and reach for higher standards of excellence dwindled.

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”

~ J.P. Morgan

The New Year: A clean unwritten start

It is not unusual to think about what we would like to change or do differently at the beginning of a new year. We also consider things we want to do differently. An unwritten page in life, a clean unwritten start, is what a new year represents.

Almost everyone wishes to make a fresh start, reach new goals, and live better. So, every year, we make New Year Resolutions and promise to follow through. Then, with good intentions and sincerity, we enter the New Year.

“New year—a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”

~ Alex Morritt

New Year’s resolutions fitness and weight loss: A humorous idea

The idea of New Year’s Resolutions has become almost humorous. People often recognize that many of their well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions fail as soon as they make them. For example, a typical New Year’s Resolution is losing weight through sensible diets and exercise.

Despite the busy season, newly acquired memberships to Fitness Centers are rarely kept for more than a couple of months. Positive intentions often do not translate into lasting change, as proven that New Year’s resolutions fail to meet their goal.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”

~J.P. Morgan

Life and the desire for short term pleasure

Life is usually motivated more by the pursuit of pleasure than by pain. Most resolutions involve a sacrifice of some kind, whether giving up an unpleasant habit or cutting out certain foods. Though our bad habits may be enjoyable, their consequences do not benefit our health or livelihood.

In most cases, the desire for instant gratification for short term pleasure is more potent than any sense of logic and reason in your mind. When our immediate desires oppose what we should do, it is hard to do what we logically know we should do.

“New year—a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”

~ Alex Morritt

The conscious and the subconscious minds

The conscious and subconscious minds are two aspects of the human mind. Neural activity in the brain occurs through neurons.

The conscious mind uses an estimated two thousand neurons every second it is awake, but the subconscious mind uses four billion. So can you figure out which part of your brain has the most significant amount of control?

Retraining the subconscious mind

Your subconscious mind is trained by repeating your beliefs, values, and lifestyle from an early age. Therefore, these automatic responses follow the familiar path of well-ingrained thoughts, behaviours, and ideas. As a result of a long-established history, the subconscious responds automatically with learned responses and behaviours.

That is why it is challenging to develop new habits. But unfortunately, the subconscious mind will always revert to the old habitual ways of thinking and being because they have become automatic.

Because of the enormous power of those four billion neurons, it can be challenging for the conscious mind to make permanent modifications. Retraining our subconscious mind takes awareness and hard work from the conscious mind.

“Life is about change, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s beautiful, but most of the time it’s both.”

~ Kristin Kreuk

Learning behaviours and restoring focus: Then and now

Creating a new habit can take as long as 60 days of repetition. Lifelong learned behaviours can require a lot more effort than that. Has it ever happened to you that you got in the car and drove to your destination but don’t remember the entire journey?

The reason is that your subconscious mind was using the learned driving behaviours, while your conscious mind was thinking about something else.

Conversely, your conscious mind would struggle to correct your subconscious’s instinctive and learned behaviours if you drove in a country where cars went on the other side.

The whole experience of driving on the other side of the road feels wrong and uncomfortable. Losing focus could place you in a dangerous situation!

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every new year find you a better man.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

Following are tips for working on your New Year’s resolutions:

  • Don’t expect instant results – it’s a process
  • Plan small attainable steps to your desired goal
  • Celebrate each successful step towards your goal and work on it until it feels automatic before progressing to the next
  • Don’t give up when you experience relapses and setbacks
  • Review your new steps and goals several times daily
  • Visualize what reaching your goal will look and feel like
  • Write down your actions and goals
  • Find people who will support and encourage you on the way

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