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Why your New Year's Resolution won't make Your Life Better

It’s the first Monday back after the holiday season. The last blog post covered the “Sunday scaries”, that feeling of dread that many of us experience on Sunday night after a fun weekend. The Sunday scaries can be magnified after a vacation. If you took the last couple of weeks off, heading into this week could be tough. There’s more traffic, there are emails and errands to catch up on, post-holiday bills and more! 

Popular New Year’s resolutions include removing things from your life, such as mindless snacking, overspending or smoking. Other resolutions include adding things to your life such as going to the gym more often or learning a new skill or hobby. 

We make resolutions with the intention of improving and transforming our lives. But did you know that your New Year’s resolution could be causing you added stress?


In the first module of the Change Without Pain online course, you’ll learn that when we’re overwhelmed, our brain and body can shift us automatically into survival mode.  The term stress was defined by Dr. Hans Selye as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. We need a certain amount of stress to keep us motivated and keep us going, but too much stress - or change -  can overpower our body, mind and spirit and hijack our emotions.


Here are three reasons why your New Year’s resolution won’t make your life better: 

1. A resolution is defined as making a firm decision to do or not do something. It’s great to decide on something, but decisions are most often based on feelings or emotions, rather than logic. Your feelings are a useful tool that can help point you in the right direction. However, when it comes to decision-making, it’s important to use all parts of your brain, including your executive function, to make the best decisions for your life. The brain’s executive function controls logic, planning, decision-making and more. If we’re in a place of focusing on our feelings, without consciously engaging our executive function and making solid plans, we can’t move forward and we feel stuck.


2. A New Year’s resolution typically isn’t specific enough, or realistic enough, for us to succeed. One of the top New Year’s resolutions is to “exercise more”. For most people, this means signing up for a gym membership come January 1. What does “exercise more” really mean? Does it mean exercising a certain number of days per week? Exercising at a certain intensity? Are there specific fitness goals? Is there a chance to rest and recharge? If you asked a new gym-goer the first week of January any of these questions, it’s likely that the newbie wouldn’t be able to answer many of these questions. If the new gym-goer made the decision to go to the gym based on a feeling only, the logical, planning part of the brain wasn’t involved in the decision.


3. A New Year’s resolution is heavily influenced by external factors. In November and December, we’re bombarded by “eat, drink and be merry” messages, encouraging us to spend more, go out more, eat more, and so on. On January 1, there’s a 180-degree reversal telling us to disregard the patterns of the last two months overnight and to immediately shift into eating less, spending less and that we should be completely different people than we were last year. Heading into a new decade increases the pressure even more. When you’re driven by external motivation, such as the pressure to change on January 1, the drive to change comes from factors outside of you. Outside factors can make you feel like you’re not in control of the change, which can trigger survival patterns in the brain.


If you’re struggling with getting back on track this week, you are not alone. You're currently dealing with a lot of change (stress), so the one thing I encourage you to do this week is to be kind to yourself. White-knuckling it to survive the week and viewing a resolution as punishment, rather than self-improvement, can trigger survival patterns and cause you pain. Practicing good self-care, such as taking breaks to breathe, 5 minutes of mindful meditation and ensuring you get enough rest will help you shift from surviving to thriving. 

For example, if you’re planning to go to the gym, perhaps consider taking a yoga or stretching class to ease back into exercise and help your body to feel good. Conscious stretching and breathing can help reduce stress and help you feel better.  Do you have any tips on sticking to resolutions? Let me know in the comments. If you have questions or need help sticking to your resolutions, contact me to find out the next best step you can take to transformation!

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