New Year’s Resolutions
How the practice of setting New Year’s resolutions began is a bit vague, but most accounts state it dates back more than 4,000 years. Babylonians and Romans believed if they promised good conduct, they would receive more favor with the gods. History.com notes that early Christians might have followed Methodist founder John Wesley’s watch night services on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
Watch night services allowed congregation members to reflect on past mistakes, pray, and create resolutions as a “spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year.” This practice is still observed in some evangelical Protestant churches.
Do Resolutions Work?
Some experts say resolving to better ourselves in the new year is an act of hope and an extension of belief in our power to change. These are both vital characteristics for our success in many aspects of life. Unfortunately, resolutions set the first of January are rarely in play by mid-February. Statistics indicate that of the nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population that makes resolutions, approximately 80 percent won’t keep them.
Why is this? Psychologist Pauline W. Wallin outlines potential reasons:
- After an over-indulgent holiday season, many people think January 1 provides an appropriate start for better habits. However, “it’s not necessarily the best time to commit to lifestyle changes—there’s nothing magical about that date,” she said.
- Sometimes, resolutions are framed as reconciliation for “bad behavior.” But, Wallin points out that “we can endure punishment only for so long before we rebel.”
- Too often, the changes we want to make are incredibly “different from our normal lifestyles and thus, very difficult to maintain.”
So one alternative to a resolution is to not label a goal, intention, or change in that way. Some people feel the term “resolute” is a hard stance, which works well in certain circumstances, but not all. Instead, look a little deeper into why you feel change is necessary, and take small, deliberate actions to achieve it. For example:
- If you’ve completed inpatient rehabilitation treatment for drugs or alcohol but still struggle with cravings in recovery, you might want to implement new coping methods. By identifying your goal—manage cravings more effectively—you have a more proactive approach toward positive change, and each action taken helps you gradually progress.
- Maybe you’d like to spend more time volunteering for a special cause because you feel thankful for the people who’ve helped you, and you want to demonstrate more tangible gratitude. You don’t have to declare a resolution to do this: simply identify an organization with a mission that matters to you, contact it, and see how you can help. The details of when, how, and for how long can be worked out over time—it’s your intent to be of service and how you follow through that matter.
- If you’re trying to develop stronger motivation to accomplish other things, set a goal to watch something inspirational one or two hours a week. This practice adds to your intrinsic motivation, which in turn influences your future success.
There are other ways to look at self-improvement without following a particular date on a calendar.
Alternatives to Resolutions
You’re curious about and interested in change. Now what? These five alternatives from The Chopra Center might spark ideas.
- Plan a quarterly retreat. The keyword here is plan; otherwise, it’s easy to push this aside. Even for an overnight, do nothing but focus on yourself and your wellbeing. Stay at a lodge, spa, or monastery that allows you to commune with nature and “reflect on your mission and purpose in life.” Take a journal with you and list what you love or appreciate about yourself, what you’ve accomplished, and prayers or affirmations for your continued success.
- Recommit to important people in your life. “As much as possible, surround yourself with people who lift you up, challenge you, and support you in becoming who you want to be.” Schedule monthly dinners, weekly coffee chats or exercise dates, or other activities.
Reflect on the past year. It’s important that this is a non-judgmental process. Include the good, bad, and neutral factors, and take action to acknowledge them, such as creating a music playlist, journaling, or teaming up with a friend to exchange each other’s recaps month-by-month.
- Show gratitude. Demonstrate the power of gratitude by listing not only what or who you’re grateful for, but why. This impacts many of your future actions. Write letters to people you’re thankful for and detail how they influenced your life.
- Take comfort in who you are right now. This action doesn’t often appear on lists like these, but it’s an essential practice of appreciation. It’s okay to like who you are in this moment, and believe you’re worthy of love. You don’t have to force change, but you may want to make even better choices and take chances when you’re in a position of self-acceptance.
Twin Lakes Has Resources for a New Life
When you’re in recovery, it’s vital to establish realistic goals. Our professional staff members are ready to empower you with important tools, progressive education, and community support to help you live to your fullest potential.