Breaking your New Year’s resolutions doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, here are some reasons it might actually be good for you.
The clock strikes 12 and you ring in the New Year with what you vow will be your last glass of wine. This will be the year you give up alcohol, get fit and find love. But come February, you're sitting on your sofa sobbing into your chardonnay, stuffing your face with cake and complaining to your mom about your most recent failed date. But breaking your New Year's resolutions doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, here are some reasons it might actually be good for you.
1. It Gives You an Excuse for Another Fresh Start
Who's to say that January 1 is the only time of year you're allowed to make a fresh start? Researchers Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman and Jason Riis from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that people are more likely to get motivated and achieve goals that are set at the start of any new period of time â€” not just at the start of the year â€” and they named this phenomenon "the fresh-start effect." In other words, if your passion for your New Year's resolutions dwindle by February, don't despair. You've got plenty of other fresh starts to get you pumped: The beginning of next week, next month or the new school term are perfect times to get excited about trying again.
2. You Realize Bigger Isnâ€™t Always Better
So you vowed to completely cut out sugar, but by January 10 you're sneaking a piece of chocolate cake from the cafeteria. If your aim had been to cut down rather than completely eliminate the sweet stuff, you'd probably still be on track and giving yourself a pat on the back for keeping up with your small but significant change. Psychologists Teresa Amiable and Steven Kramer have extensively researched how making progress, even with small wins, is one of the most powerful forms of motivation.
Personal trainer and Fit4mum founder Melissa Lorch agrees: "Develop healthy habits in small steps and small daily goals. Nobody is perfect, and trying to be ends in disaster. If weight loss is your goal, aim to lose a pound at a time or a centimeter off your waistline. Celebrate those milestones rather than setting out to lose two stone straight off the bat." Fallen off your resolution bandwagon? Don't give up. Instead, scale down and you still might meet your goal.
3. It Makes You Focus
Plenty of people don't make just one resolution, they make tons of them â€” and then they feel disheartened when they can't keep up. Psychologist Emma Kenny recommends focusing on priority-based goals and never setting more than one resolution. "For instance, my aim this year is to make time to go for a walk once a month with the kids and go out for dinner afterward," she said. "I can measure this, and I can make sure I maintain it because it's small enough to do. It's just one thing and if I get good enough at sticking to it, it'll soon become a habit. Then I can choose a new goal and focus on that."
4. It Alleviates Pressure
You'll likely have an initial feeling of guilt and disappointment when you break your resolution, but once you get over that you'll probably also feel a little relieved. Trying to maintain a hefty resolution can be incredibly exhausting, and it's perfectly normal to feel like a weight has been lifted if you fail. That doesn't mean you should give up entirely though.
"Letting go of anything eventually makes us feel better," says psychologist Emma Kenny. "The thing about giving up and resolutions is that you get to a critical phase, and that phase is the day you give up. Then people think, 'I've broken it, I may as well eat what I want.' Instead, see it as a chance to reform, rephrase, recalibrate and move on to something else. Always look for a substitute."
5. You Can Stop Cheating
You may find that before you admit you've fully broken your resolution, you've actually been cheating on it. Perhaps you vowed to run five miles every day, but gradually you convince yourself you've run five when you've only actually run three. Then you miss a day, but you promise yourself it's "just once." Cheating on yourself will only make you feel guilty.
"Having the right mindset is key," says Fit4mum's Melissa Lorch. "If people think they've cheated, they cheat more. Feeling guilty doesn't help you live a healthy lifestyle. It's all about choices. You decide what you eat and whether you exercise or not. Don't punish yourself for your choices. Just make a little pact with yourself to make a better choice straight away and get back to it."
6. You Can Stop Depriving Yourself
More often than not your resolution comes hand in hand with deprivation, such as vowing not to drink all year or giving up your favorite junk food forever. But psychologist Emma Kenny insists that if you typically do this, you need to turn your resolution on its head. "People are always focusing on giving up, not taking up," she says. "Instead of giving up, you can do something new, you can try something good, you can do something exciting. You can add things to your life, as opposed to taking fun stuff away."
Plus, completely depriving yourself of something can make you downright miserable and more likely to fail. "EDIT instead of DIET," adds Fit4mum's Melissa Lorch. "It's much more successful to make a lifestyle change rather than try to stick to a deprivation plan."
What Do YOU Think?
Have you successfully kept a New Year's resolution and believe you have the secret to making it happen? Do New Year's resolutions immediately make you miserable? Perhaps you've never made a resolution and never will. Tell us what you think about New Year's resolutions in the comments.