New Year’s Resolutions That Work—And Why

Woman busting some Zumba (R) moves
Woman dancing Zumba (R) (Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay)

Okay, so I said I wouldn’t work until tomorrow, but this post-to-be tramples on my brain like a little garden gnome (expression adapted from a Romanian one).

Speaking of which, I’ll introduce you soon to a mug with 43 funny Romanian expressions. The rest of the article will be about New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s a story before that, though. What do you do with a friend who (half-)listens to you as you ramble on about how meaningful your projects are to you, only to respond, “But aren’t you miserable when you go to bed?” I mean, does that even warrant a(nother) response? Because it’s clear that this person doesn’t want to see that you’re happy about your “stuff.” Not because she isn’t a good person, but because she’s in a slump, her mind has spread some dark ink in her soul waters, and all she sees while swimming submerged in there is, of course, darker. Sorry about this (overwritten) poetic license. I actually lead with this story to make another, tangential point.

If you’re going to make a New Year’s solution to “fix” something you don’t like about you, you’ll be stuck, like my friend, looking at the new, happy habits you plan to form from some dark waters of the soul. Not good. What psychologists say does work, and what I, too, have tested, is to choose resolutions that “better” something you’re good at or you know you can do if you decide on it and take SMART steps (steps that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely).

Disclaimer: I am not a medical or health practitioner, and no part of This Blog, or the websites and products I mention and link to on This Blog, is intended as professional medical or health advice, and should not be considered as such. Consult with your doctor(s) about starting any course of treatment, taking any supplements, or changing any (dietary, exercise, etc.) routines. Here are my Full Terms and Conditions.

Take losing weight, for instance. Sooo many people want to lose weight. Okay—or not okay. If you set just a goal (say twenty pounds) and plan to go about it with a trendy diet, when you have never lost twenty pounds in a year before, you may set yourself up for failure, and part of it is that you start with a mix of awful feeling about being twenty pounds over your ideal weight and anxiety at the new diet that may or may not work, and that may or may not have a yo-yo effect.

But if, on the other hand, you focus on something that 1. you enjoy doing, and 2. you’re already good at, like cooking and learning about nutrition, or aiming to exercise more while watching movies on Netflix (both things I’ve tried myself, by the way—right now I’m aiming to exercise my arms more while walking in place), things all of a sudden look very doable!

Some psychologists say that the fact that people make resolutions for New Year’s is actually helpful, because we are used to treating every new year as a new beginning. I may not be a psychologist (even as I often read psychology books), but I think that sometimes this idea of a clean break with the past on New Year’s works against us. As other psychologists have remarked regarding goal achievement and the making of new habits, it helps to build on something you’re already doing. So, for instance, if you want to lose weight, it may help to try to do it in a way that works with present habits. Do you drink tea daily? Good. Try drinking a cup of green tea every other day, as it’s known to burn fat and help with all sorts of health issues, starting with cholesterol and ending with helping your brain function a little better. Do you like to watch movies? Great. Try treading in place while you’re at it, and if you’ve already done that for a while, try moving your arms more, buying some weights if you don’t have any . . . or even a treadmill, if you live in a house and can afford to make all that noise. Also: do you like to cook? Awesome. Look into healthier recipes and you may find that your taste buds adjust accordingly. I, for one, have developed such a taste for spices that I can’t go one day without things like garlic (I know, though, the smell!), ginger, turmeric, cumin, and so on. Buying spice-flavored tea also helps.

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Here’s one rooibos chai that’s more spicy than other blends on the market.

Organic rooibos masala chai, meaning tea flavored with spices
Organic rooibos chai from Numi

And here’s a whole mix of herbal teas for your enjoyment. Tea is something way to good not to revel in it, especially as trying various blends is so affordable. (Here are some tea quotes, if you’re interested, from one aficionado to one other budding enthusiast, hopefully.)

Stash tea variety pack with 52 tea bags. Perfect gift set!
Tea variety pack, perfect for gifts or for your delight

Okay, don’t quote know how I got to tea. Oh, right: green tea and weight loss. Do note, however, that green tea is tricky for people prone to anemia; it can also hurt the liver. In any case, do drink and eat anything in moderation.

Back to New Year’s resolutions. The fact that they do start after the overindulgence of the holidays is, as psychologists note, a good thing. But according to some researchers, some habits need more than two months to form, and we may be through with some of our New Year’s projects in a month or so. That is what happens when they are not specific enough in terms of how we plan to make them happen while also not disrupting our schedules too much (if that’s not possible). For instance, if you plan on exercising an hour every day but you don’t have that hour, that plan is going to fall through. But if you plan to cut off some of your social media engagement AND replace it with some exercise, that’s wonderful. The trick, if you ask me (and some other WordPress bloggers I read recently) is to mix the two, and focus on what Per Carlbring at Stockholm University calls “approach goals” (as opposed to “avoidance goals”).

So! If you want to cook more healthy food—great, but make sure you know what you want to give up. (Computer time generally works ;-). Also, it may help to pair a new habit with something else you’re already enjoying. How about bringing the kids to help in the kitchen? They may make a mess there, but they will also learn a lot. One of my nephews used to help my aunt ever since he was little, and now in his early twenties he prepares complicated holidays food himself. He has also taken up the cooking duty in his home, which, let me just say it, is quite amazing for a young man these days. (His partner often works overtime.)

There you have it! Some ideas for making New Year’s resolutions actually work, and some ideas, too, for some new habits you may want to embrace. Did I mention dancing at all occasions at home? This is also something I do. My radio is on in the kitchen and whenever I’m there not eating or actively cooking, I dance. And let me just say, two years ago I had no idea I’d ever be so good at it (and I’m improving every day!).

Happy New Year, everyone, and good luck with your projects!

Ah, the mug with funny Romanian expressions. Here it is, if you needed something to put a big smile on your face.

Quirky humor mug with 43 funny Romanian expressions
Mug with 43 Funny Romanian Expressions

To a happier, healthier life,

Mira

P.S. If you feel so inclined, do share how you went about some of YOUR New Year’s resolutions!

All my best wishes for a great 2022!

Mira

2 Comments

  1. This was so insightful! I want to eat healthier (this is everyone’s goal by now.) and also work harder on saying no to things I don’t want and don’t need. Also a bunch of psychological things but reading this post, I totally agree – it’s very hard to “fix” things about yourself. Great post!

    Like

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