A fresh start, a new beginning, a breath of fresh air, turning a new page is what New Year Resolutions are all about. The New Year brings in a slew of dreamers, hoping to fulfill a resolution. The big problem is that New Year Resolutions are easy to create but keeping them is a different story.
When did People Start Making Resolutions?
Think about New Year Eve. You might see a street closed so that a parade might go pounding by, you might attend a party that will pop sparking drinks at the stroke of midnight, or your eyes might drift off as your children run around amped up on a sugar high.
Then lo and behold, it’s the New Year. A time where you might say, what can I change, what can I do better?
This might be a goal to exercise more, lose some weight, give up a bad habit, save money, or make another change for the better.
Now, have you ever asked yourself? Why?
Why is January 1st anything other than a regular day? People looking to make a health-based change for the New Year, may not realize that they are participating in a practice that has ancient origins.
That doesn’t mean that those resolutions looked the same, however.
According to Evan Andrews, historian, some 5,000 years ago, Ancient Egyptians were the first recorded people to celebrate the New Year.
Around midsummer, the Nile River would annually flood, bringing with it fertile soil for good crops. Because these ancients were depended on agriculture, this was a perfect time to celebrate. This celebration was called “Wepet Renpet”, translating to “opening of the year” (2020).
However, the Egyptians only have a record of a celebration, not a resolution.
According to Sarah Pruitt, historian, 1,000 years later, New Year’s resolutions were first being practiced by the ancient Babylonians in 2000 BC (2015-2020). Mid-March, not the modern January, was when the Babylonians planted their crops and honored the new year.
This celebration, known as “Akitu”, involved a large 12-day festival including either the crowning of a new king or a reaffirming of loyalty to the current monarch.
They also made promises to pay their debts and return any item they had previously borrowed. Thus, the forerunners of New Year’s Resolution was born.
Speaking of the New Year, we cannot forget the very relevant and still widely celebrated Chinese New Year.
According to Capritto, this traditional festival took place around 1,000 BC (2020).
The Parade of masked figures, ornate floats, and colorful displays made way for modern parades. In fact, according to many historians the Chinese were the first to use fireworks during their New Year celebration, a huge influence on modern festivities (Capritto, 2020).
It wasn’t until Rome rose to power, that the New Year was no longer celebrated in March. Enter 46 BC, Julius Caesar, Emperor of Rome, tweaked the calendar to establish January 1st as the official beginning of the new year.
For Romans, January has a much deeper meaning than simply the “cold” month.
Evan Andrews says, “Its name was derived from the two-faced deity Janus, the Roman god of change, doorways, and beginnings” (2020). When depicted, the two- faced Janus is seen as looking back to the past and ahead to the future.
This provided the template for modern New Year’s resolutions by looking at the past and changing for the future, that we know and love today!
Now you might be asking yourself, I didn’t come for a history lesson! Where are the tips? Don’t worry, this was only the entrée, on to the main course!
Why These Tips are Important
Now that we know the background on our ancient ancestor’s New Year’s goal setting, let’s take a look at the outcomes of most modern people’s resolutions, what we can do to change that, and how keeping with your goal will benefit YOU!
In regard to Discover Healthy Habits (2021), an online article that groups together research-based statistics on the success and failures of New Year resolutions, over half of the most popular resolutions made each year are health-related.
For example, in 2020, the most popular resolutions were:
> Exercise more (50%)
> Save money (49%)
> Eat healthier (43%)
More specific examples included “eating healthier foods, getting fit, managing stress and drinking less alcohol” (2021).
Those are some very great goals, but how many of these resolutions were kept?
According to a 2016 study, only 9% of surveyed Americans felt they were successful in keeping their New Year’s resolutions.
This is a decrease from a study in 2007, that found 12% of people finding success, even though over 52% of participants were confident they would succeed at the beginning of that year (Discover, 2021).
10 Helpful Tips to Resolution Success
Tip #1: Choose One Goal.
People tend to overestimate their goals. Around 1 in 10 people who claimed failure said they made too many resolutions (Discover, 2021).
For example, if someone makes a goal to be healthier, there are lots of factors at play. Eating right, exercising more, purchasing healthy meals, finding a gym, working out at home, making time in your busy day, etc, all move toward a healthier lifestyle, but can be overwhelming when viewed all together.
In other words, advice number 1 is to choose a single, specific goal.
Meg Baker, director of UAB Employee Wellness, says that forming a realistic, short-term goal that will fit into your schedule will be a recipe for higher success (2019). For example, finding a form of exercise that you enjoy, making a nutritional change focused on meal prep, or simply starting to track your fitness on the many motivational apps the digital world offers.
Tip #2: Start Small
Go big or go home, does not apply here. Meg Baker says, “starting small increases the likelihood of success” (2014). Sometimes goals that are specific but unrealistic can be difficult. For example, making a resolution to lose 50 pounds or starting up your own art business sounds great, but without a long-term commitment and planning, that can be very difficult for an average person.
According to Discover Healthy Habits, a 2014 study revealed that 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions said they had unrealistic goals (2021).
To reduce this percentage, a good rule of thumb is to create small goals that you believe are do-able for YOU.
Instead of losing 50 pounds, a smaller goal might be to lose 1 pound a week or simplify even further by signing up for a gym class starting at once a week.
This tip can also apply to those with bigger goals. Don’t be afraid to dream big!
If you have a lofty goal, break it into smaller chunks.
For example, if you are training to run a marathon, start out by running a mile or a few miles 2 or 3 times a week. You can increase each month leading up to your marathon date. This makes it realistic even if it is a big goal!
Tip #3: Make A Plan
We’ve all had that last minute resolution. Christmas flies by and you’ve forgotten it’s already New Years! Don’t wait until the last minute! 23% of resolutions didn’t succeed because people simply forgot about their resolutions (Discover, 2021).
Kendra Cherry, a writer for Very Well Mind (2020), gives a recommendation of writing down your goal, the steps you will take to achieve that goal, why you want to complete that goal, potential obstacles or setbacks, and ways to keep yourself on the track to success!
Dedicate some time to plan out your resolution. To begin, simply write down your resolution on paper. This can even be the start of a resolution journal!
Next, write down a list of things you might do to accomplish that goal. For example, let’s say your goal is to run a marathon the coming year. Your list might include trails to run, gym classes to take, meal prep to assist, and distances you want to complete each month leading up to your race.
For the last step, write down some setbacks that might occur, so you can be ready for them. In this example, some setbacks to a marathon might be, skipping days or not making the distance you planned.
Know that these setbacks happen, so that instead of giving in, always be ready to adjust your goal to match your weekly needs!
By knowing exactly what you want to achieve and what might stand in your way, you will be better prepared to keep to your resolution and overcome any obstacles that might distract you (Cherry, 2020).
Tip #4: Learn From Your Past
Chances are, you’ve had a resolution before. What went well, and what went poorly? Another bit of advice is to learn from your past and not make the same goal as last year. According to Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at Hertfordshire University, "If people think they can do it, they probably can, but if they've already tried and failed, their self-belief will be low” (2006).
It's hard to break a habit, so it is always good to remember what worked and more importantly what didn’t work. If you had either success or failure in your previous resolutions, take the time to remember what went well and what went poorly. You can adjust your plan for this next year to be even better!
Tip #5: Don’t Give Up For Little Things (Give yourself a break)
Many resolutions end with a hiccup. According to one study, most people who try to lose weight, quit smoking, or start exercising give up within the first three months (Oscarson and Colleagues, 2017).
You might be following your plan, but then you might miss a day, eat something that you crave, or miss a class. Biggest advice of this blog is don’t let that hold you back.
In the words of Miley Cyrus, “Everyone has those days. Everyone makes mistakes”.
There will always be a time, where you will be unable to complete your daily goal. Let those days come and go.
Allow yourself to have a break now and again. Once more, having your goal written down is going to help keep you on track, even if you need a recovery day or two, or maybe that donut just looked really good.
However, if your current method is still not working, go ahead and change your goal to match your situation.
A resolution is great at the beginning of the year but does not take in all factors that pop up. You can always reevaluate your strategies and create a new game plan. “Being flexible with your plan—and even your end goal—will help you be successful” (Cherry, 2020).
Tip #6: Document the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
As mentioned before, keeping a resolution journal can be helpful in achieving your goal. As you go, write down your wins and your losses.
According to one recent study, 33% of participants who failed to keep their resolutions didn’t keep track of their progress (Discover, 2021).
When you feel particularly unmotivated review why you are working hard to achieve your goal, so that you can refer to them during times where you might feel uninspired (Cherry, 2020).
This can help narrow down the reason why you are feeling off from your goal and brainstorm how you can work through it.
A resolution journal can also help with next year. If you write down your progress, experience, and tactics, you’ll have the proof of your efforts that you achieved most, if not all, of your goal. This can help next year’s resolution become even better for years to come.
Now remember, the number one piece of advice for tip is, to not feel pressured to write in your journal every day.
Remember this is just a strategy to help you be one of the few that marks their resolution as successful. If you miss a few days, grab some Mckee D’s, or decide to go out instead of hitting the gym, don’t let little things hold you back, review your journal as everything you’ve done and continue on to do your best.
Tip #7: Build New Motivation
Now I can tell you, in my experience, the beginning of the year is always a time of motivated thought and action.
Then here comes February. You might feel a little less excited about the New Year. Then its March. You might feel tired and not want to continue, I mean the New Year is practically over, right?Wrong!
Don’t let your goal lose its glitter and gold, there are several habits to help when the New Year resolution slump hits.
According to Meg Baker, “If the new behavior has lost its luster, switch things up. Variety is the key to life and can keep you from getting burned out. Spice things up by changing your normal exercise routine, finding new healthy recipes online or joining a new class” (2014).
Don’t forget your New Year resolution is all about YOU, so if you’re feeling down, switch up your activities and build new motivation!
Tip #8: Make Sure The Resolution Makes You Feel Good
This is probably one of the easiest tips out there. Ask yourself, will this goal make me feel good? If the answer is no, chances are you aren’t gonna keep it.
According to one study, 23% of people who failed their resolutions simply forgot about their resolutions because they weren’t passionate about their goals.
It is important to make resolutions that resonate with you instead of goals that you feel are “expected” of you or someone else’s goal (UAB Medicine, 2019).
I can not say it enough, this goal is for YOU, not your neighbors, not your family, and not your friends.
Keep up those endorphins! Let yourself be your motivation!
Tip #9: Get a Friend to Hold You Accountable
According to UAB Medicine, one of the largest mistakes people make when setting their New Year’s resolutions is trying at it alone (2019).
Having a friend alongside you might be there for similar goals, there for the social aspect, or simply there to support YOU!
Having at least two people at a gym, an activity, or grabbing some food are more likely to keep going for each other.
I can’t tell you how many times I try to go on a trail run, only to find an excuse. Except, when I have a friend with me, I show up for them.
The friend factor can make a huge difference in whether or not you achieve your resolution this year.
If available, try to find someone you trust to be reliable and who will commit on your quest for healthy meals, exercise, or new hobbies (UAB Medicine, 2019).
Tip #10: Reward Yourself! No Punishments Here!
Best for last! Give yourself a reward for working for your goal! For our Parks and Rec fans out there, listen to Tom and Donna and, “Treat yo’ self!
Don’t feel overwhelmed, resolutions aren’t all hard work, they need to have an element of fun. It’s important to acknowledge the achievements you make, no matter the size.
“An achievement is an achievement, no matter how small.” There is about a 5% chance Dr. Suess probably said that in his lifetime.
Now remember, just because you should reward yourself for your good behavior, that doesn’t mean you should punish yourself for not going to the gym, for eating out, or for spending more money.
It takes time to make a change, pivot to being better.
If you’ve stuck to your resolution for the past three months, take some time to do something you don’t need but want. If you’ve been sticking to a meal plan, go ahead and get yourself a delicious pastry.
If you’ve been going to the gym regularly, go ahead and buy that shirt that’s been sitting in your shopping cart for weeks now.
Occasional rewards deliver substantial proof that your resolution plan is not only working, but working well and you are improving yourself, each and every day (UAB Medicine, 2019).
Let Us Help YOU
Don’t let the high statistics of failure, change your mind about writing a New Year’s resolution. Set yourself up for success by using the tips and strategies that resonate with you, and if failure still knocks on your door, know that you still showed up.
You still were taking steps to make your life better. Take that experience and turn it into improving yourself each coming year. Know that no matter how much of the resolution you keep, you are always that much closer to your goal then you were at the start of the New Year.
Here at Balanced Foods, we want to help with your new year resolutions, as we strongly believe in helping people achieve their dreams. We can help keep you accountable and on track! Come in and see what we are all about!