Are new year’s resolutions a waste of time?

Latest posts by Daniel Browne (see all)

So, tomorrow is January again. Time for new year’s resolutions and the post-Christmas blues.

Not for me though. Back in 2013 I decided that I would no longer be making new year’s resolutions (is that a resolution in itself?).

The simple reason for this is that I can’t be bothered any more. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have sat down with a pen and a piece of paper to write down everything I want to do in that year.

There’s the yearly appearance of ‘LOSE WEIGHT!!!’ scribbled in capital letters (it never happens), things such as spend more time with family and friends or expand my social circle, and then items like finally decorate my living room or some other tedious task.

I actually did decorate my living room in 2012, but the majority of resolutions that I make never happen. I don’t think I’m alone on that front.

In fact, a 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people, showed that 88% of those who set new year’s resolutions fail. So we’re literally setting ourselves up to fail.

One example of a new year’s resolution fail is the surge in people becoming members of a gym at the beginning of the year. I have been a member of my gym since the summer and went for my first post-Christmas workout this week.

I could not believe how busy it was when I got there. My gym is a relatively quiet one, with there being hardly any people working out after 7 pm. There had obviously been an influx of new members and there they all were working up a sweat as they ran off all the turkey and chocolate that had been consumed over the festive period.

By February, I expect many of those new members will give up on going to the gym and will continue with their usual lifestyle. If that makes people happy, then great – more power to them – but I don’t really get it.

Why join the gym in the first place if it’s not going to be a continuing activity? Surely there are better things to spend money on than a gym membership that doesn’t get used?

Of course, it’s not just going to the gym to lose weight and become a bit fitter that’s a popular resolution at new year. Another one is to quit smoking.

With cigarettes costing an increasing amount each year and there being more awareness of the damage that smoking can do, droves of people state that they’re giving up the fags for good. Cue two weeks later on a drunken night out and some of those same people have cigarettes hanging out of their mouths whilst having simultaneously broken the resolution of not drinking alcohol in January.

In my ‘day job’ I’m a therapist, and at the turn of each year my new client booking rates go through the roof as people come to see me for counselling or hypnotherapy to help them lose weight or quit smoking. Out of those, about 50% of them see the process through, with the other half giving up after one or two sessions.

I think people abandon their resolutions for several reasons. It could be due to peer pressure, or it could be that they feel achieving the resolution is beyond them. Perhaps they never intended to achieve the resolutions in the first place but came up with it just because it’s en vogue to have them. Or maybe they simply can’t be bothered.

When I set about writing this, I put it out on Twitter and Facebook that I was interested in hearing people’s new year’s resolutions and thoughts on whether it’s worth making resolutions in the first place.

I can’t say that the response surprised me. Losing weight was the number one thing that people want to do in 2013, with one person saying he wanted to ‘be skinny’.

Other resolutions people mentioned to me included ‘pull more men’, travelling around Europe and saving money. I’d say they’re all achievable things and if those people do accomplish their resolutions, then that’s great.

I spoke to one of my friends about his resolutions. His are to achieve health, wealth and happiness, which he says are all anyone wants but tend to fail miserably at.

The cynicism amused me but he also had a point. That’s all many people want: to be happy, to be healthy and to acquire wealth.

Personally, I’m not bothered about wealth, but I certainly want to attain a decent standard of health and happiness. I don’t believe that making a new year’s resolution to achieve those things means they are going to happen, though. Why do we have to begin working on those resolutions at new year anyway?

The answer is that we don’t. There are 364 other days of the year that we can make a resolution to lose weight, quit smoking, become healthier and happier, pull more men, or whatever it may be.

I remember reading somewhere once that September is statistically the best month for starting resolutions. I can’t say whether that is fact or not but try giving it a go and see if the result is any different.

Or how about beginning your resolution on the day you think of it? It may bring a more positive result than waiting to start it next week or at new year.

That time you have in between thinking of the resolution and actually starting it could provide you with an opportunity to set yourself up for failure.

If you’ve made a new year’s resolution, I wish you good luck with it. If you achieve it, then that’s good for you. If you don’t quite get there, then that’s okay too. You’re only human and there’s always next year, right?