OPINION: why ridiculous New Year’s resolutions don’t stick
Who the heck ever heard of a day when you can change your life? Why do we even need a day to change? Surely, with 365 days in the year, every day of the year can be a chance for resolution, personal revolution, and change!
New Year’s resolutions are the epitome of the Western world. A manufactured time of year to ‘change’ because humans don’t have a basic drive to look after themselves. Well, not all humans. Clearly many do or there wouldn’t be an entire industry based around health and well-being, and gurus by the dozen touting a six pack by Valentine’s Day because “all you need is ‘self’ love”!
Resolutions go back to the Babylonian times when promises were made to Gods to pay back debts, hoping that the Gods would look favorably on their year ahead. This distinct human culture of blaming everything except us creates a perfect opportunity for resolution; just in case it doesn’t work out I always have the new year to start again!
This is not how health starts, especially not on January 1st. As an Osteopath, I continually communicate that health is not a fad (and a six-pack by Valentine’s Day) but rather a journey that you spend your entire life travelling on. As far as I’m concerned New Year’s resolutions are as bad as a sober October or dry July (which clearly have good intentions but, in my mind, miss the mark). This isn’t about a month or a day to change, it’s about a lifetime of healthy habits. Fads don’t change addictive habits until you change them. Period.
If for example you really want to stop drinking, then you will really, really want to stop before you make the change. I remember when I stopped smoking, I just stopped with no specific date. The same thing happened when I stopped drinking. I hit a point where I really, really needed to get my health back, in mind, body and soul because I really needed to do it. And not with a future start date in mind, but more so like – yesterday.
It will never happen if we say we will stop drinking tomorrow or on New Year’s Eve. It doesn’t matter what your ‘New Year’s resolutions’ are. Maybe it’s joining a gym or quitting chocolate. Regardless, research has shown that a habit takes 3 months to break along with time and perseverance to make it work. Who hasn’t tried to quit something, only to find themselves at a party or with friends or absent-mindedly on the couch doing the very thing we said we would quit a month ago?
When I stopped drinking it took a while for people to realise and accept, I no longer drank. They thought because I was no longer drinking that I couldn’t buy a round for example when in fact, purchasing a non-alcoholic drink in an alcoholic round isn’t exactly brain surgery. I realized that when you fall outside the box, people are confused and not sure how to react and this, in fact, can become a driving factor into pushing you back to the ‘socially acceptable’ behaviour that you no longer have time for. I’m here to say, don’t let it! Society changes slowly, be a time traveller and let the rest of the world catch up to you.
I think the hardest time to change is when a medical professional tells you to do this and that to get back on track with your health. It’s a bit like being told to stop talking in class back in school. How many people don’t do the exercises they’re told to do for lower back pain and still complain about back pain? How many people with irritable bowel syndrome and a sensitive stomach still eat gluten and dairy?
For some, it all just feels too hard and that in turn creates fear. In fact, it’s not that bloody hard; stop putting junk in your mouth and start exercising if you want to give yourself the best chance of living a happy and healthy life. If not, stop visiting doctors and living on the health service as it’s not for you. It’s the health service, not the sick service. You might as well take the medicine and put up with the side effects. Delightful.
Never fear. It’s not all bad news, and I do have some great advice on how to get the most out of your health and where to start with your New Year’s resolutions, which isn’t New Year’s Day. It’s now, this moment when you’re reading this article, which could be on any day of the year but just so happens to be today!
Tips for good health
1. Start with one day at a time. Even one hour. One minute. One drink, one moment of putting something in your mouth you shouldn’t.
2. Find a purpose. Your ‘why’ for being alive. It will make you succeed. Mine is to be as healthy as I can, so I can look after my children.
3. Find an alternative option to distract you. Put a slice of lemon in the glass it so it feels like a gin and tonic, heck, why not even put that sucker in a pretty glass! You could try alcohol-free beer, but if like me you have gut issues then they may make you bloated and windy.
4. Get distracted with a regular activity with a friend; no, I don’t mean a drink or dinner. A walk, a swim, play a ball sport or go to the movies. No popcorn, just water, remember.
5. If you don’t eat your greens, start with different colors: carrots and sweet potatoes. The orange veggies are pretty good for you too. You may then fancy trying green after a while.
6. Reach out for help. If you are about to slide back or can’t get out of an addiction, speak to friends who can support you. Find the ones who have succeeded on their health journey
7. Every day is a new day. Celebrate the fact that you are achieving a happy and healthy life. People will start noticing that you are happier and want to talk to you about your life. It took me three months to sleep better, and then I felt better.
8. Remember, this habit/addiction of yours has come from some form of emotional or physical trauma in your life. Try and understand why and overcome and accept the trauma. This may help you succeed.
Remember, health is not a fad; it’s a journey. And now, pat yourself on the back because reading this article just might have been the first step to change. Now, onward, and upward – you got this. I believe in you. It’s a new you resolution, every day of the year.
Danny Williams is an expat Brit, Curious by Nature founder, Super Soups Author, and Media Spokesperson for health and well-being related to osteopathy. He arrived in Australia in 2010 where he relocated and set up South Yarra Osteopathy. A high sort after expert in his field Danny brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the sector.