January is typically a time of new beginnings, taking stock of what has been already achieved and setting plans for the future. The ironic thing is that most of us know that we aren’t going to keep the resolutions that we set, particularly if they relate to our creature comforts such as losing weight, saving money, cutting down on drinking or joining the gym.
In an article for Forbes, Marla Tabaka referenced statistics from the U.S. News & World Report, which revealed that the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80 percent, with most losing their resolve by mid-February. And many experts are in agreement that reasons for failure include setting the boundaries too high, making unrealistic targets and failing to break resolutions down into smaller, manageable chunks. Some suggest that failure is almost guaranteed from the start due to the use of the word ‘resolution’. Much like the word ‘diet’, it already tells your unconscious mind that it needs to change or do something different, and this almost always results in self-sabotage.
This year however, I wonder whether our resolutions will be different. Having been through an extremely turbulent year due to COVID-19, many of the aspects of life which we once took for granted are now taking center stage in our minds and our actions.
Starting a New Chapter
Forget turning over a new leaf, it’s time to go in search of a completely new book! Many people had to put their plans for 2020 on pause due to COVID-19, but it is important to realize that things aren’t going to go back to normal anytime soon. In her article for Psychology Today, Kate F. Hays Ph.D said, ‘Don’t expect to be able to pick up where you left off. Your life has changed. This involves being gentle with yourself, what you have been through, what you see as your prospects. If that’s hard to do, you might think about “what if I had a friend who…” had the year that you have had: what would you advise them?’
Setting Short Term Goals
Given that setting new year’s resolutions only comes round once a year, it makes sense that they should be ones which are likely to see you through the entire year. Setting a resolution which could be achieved by March seems a bit of a waste of a wish doesn’t it? The reality is that this year is very different to previous years, so it requires a different approach. With the announcement of a new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 it is expected that the next few months could be the hardest yet in terms of battling through the pandemic. Therefore, experts are recommending resolutions which focus on just getting you through the next few months. Writing for The Conversation, psychologist Katherine Arbuthnott advises, ‘personal points of pain can give people some idea of what resolutions they might make. Addressing those specific points may help enable people to care for themselves well enough to arrive at the pandemic’s end with some semblance of good physical and mental health.’
Often our new year’s resolutions are focused on personal achievements; beating an addiction, embarking on a fitness regime or getting our finances in order tend to be common goals. But this year has shown us that sometimes, the most important things in our lives are the things that go unnoticed from day to day. Resolutions this year may therefore be more focused on staying connected to those who we love and are positive influences on our lives. Perhaps it’s a pledge to ring your nanna once a week, or to switch off technology in the evenings in order to play a game with your children or read them a bedtime story. In an article for Science Daily, Richard Ryan, an international expert on motivational research and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Rochester said, “Think of how you can help. There’s a lot of distress out there: If we can set goals that aim to help others, those kinds of goals will, in turn, also add to our own well-being.”
When faced with challenges, obstacles and uncertainty, it can be easy to get caught up in negative thoughts which focus on what you’ve lost or are missing out on. Despite achieving great things, the mind has a habit of only focusing on the failures. If you put one new year’s resolution to the test this year, why not try practicing daily gratitude. Make time each day to remind yourself about the things that you are grateful for. In her recent article for Forbes, Naz Beheshti says, ‘Starting small and easy is the secret to a lasting gratitude practice. If, for example, you have in the past began a gratitude journal but did not keep it up, maybe that is not the best place to start. Instead, find a small action you know you can repeat every day and build from there.’