Here’s the answer to why we’re unable to keep our New Year’s resolutions

T-Mag Wednesday 02/January/2019 16:47 PM
By: Times News Service
Here’s the answer to why we’re unable to keep our New Year’s resolutions

It’s that time of the year again... once the ball has dropped on New Year’s Eve, the confetti’s been cleared away and the celebrations have ended, and you’re offered a plate of delicious crème caramel or whatever treat suits your fancy. You salivate in anticipation, your stomach gurgles gleefully at the delicious morsels of food that are going to come its way any second now, you reach out for it, knowing that this sweet treat will satisfy your immediate cravings. You grab a spoon and penetrate its sugar-coated surface, the first bite of dessert now halfway to your mouth.
Happiness, a thrilling, happy, burst of wonderful goodness, is just seconds away. Your entire body tenses in anticipation, and then, you stop, in a juddering, shuddering motion that your body just cannot seem to comprehend. You’ve always indulged in the past, why won’t you sate your body’s needs now?
The answer is simple – today is not that day when you used to consume desserts by the plateful. Today is the first day of a new you. A new you that will be shaped, thanks to the New Year’s resolution you made to eat healthier.
Yes, you’ve made it a day on the way to becoming a new you. But will you be able to do so for a year, a month, or even a week? People around the world have trouble sticking to their New Year’s resolutions, and science has explained why.
As early as 1988 (or before I was born), John Norcross of the University of Scranton and Dominic Vangarelli, vice president of the Geisinger Marworth Treatment Centre, published a paper that looked into why people let go of their New Year’s resolutions so easily.
They studied 200 people over a period of six months and found that less than 40 of them were able to keep their resolutions for two years.
Titled The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts, the study found that a lack of self-control, excessive stress and negative emotions all contributed to people abandoning their New Year’s resolutions.
“This study prospectively tracked the self-change attempts of 200 New Year’s resolvers over a two-year period in order to more fully understand the coping determinants of maintenance and the natural history of lapses and relapses,” said Norcross and Vangarelli. “Some 77 per cent maintained their pledges for one week but only 19% for two years. Successful resolvers reported employing significantly more stimulus control, reinforcement, and willpower than the unsuccessful over the two years.”
“Social support and interpersonal strategies failed to predict success before six months but did so thereafter,” they added. “Counterconditioning and fading were retrospectively nominated as the most efficacious coping strategies; paucity of willpower and failure of stimulus control were reported as the most hindering to maintenance. Fifty-three per cent of the successful group experienced at least one slip, and the mean number of slips over the two-year interval was 14. Slips were typically precipitated by a lack of personal control, excessive stress, and negative emotion.”

It might sound a bit nerdy for some, but when a scientist (you know, one of those super-educated, super-aware people) says something is wrong, you know he’s not messing about. Funnily enough, one of the most common New Year resolutions is to not make a New Year’s resolution, simply because it’s difficult to stick to one.
Tanvi Mohindra, an expat who was raised in the Sultanate and works here, says a New Year’s resolution does not have to begin on the first of January. It is not a knee-jerk reaction that begins with the start of the year, but one that requires adopting the spirit of wanting to change, rather than a compulsion to do so.
A regular volunteer with animal rights groups in Oman, Tanvi’s home is shared with a 12-year-old Golden Retriever that she adopted, and is now a much-loved member by all of her family.
She says she has learned much both inside and outside the office, and she’s looking forward to continuing to learn throughout the next year as well. For her, it’s not just the goal that matters, but how she gets there.
“Professionally, I have seen myself grow a lot, especially with how to deal with things when under immense pressure, having the focus and a clear mind to make an informed decision in critical times. This applies to my personal life as well.
“A family trip after more than a decade was something that was pending for a very long time and we made it happen this year. That was definitely a standout event for me.”
She added, “The only resolution should be to live in the present and enjoy it to the fullest because it is true that we don’t know if we will still exist tomorrow; it’s easier said than done but I believe that’s a good way to live. Plan a little but don’t overdo it. Be spontaneous, it is easier and less stressful.”
Tanvi’s advice seemed particularly apt in a modern, stress-filled world that all of us inhabit. On the occasion of the New Year, Tanvi asked people to remember to take time out for themselves, instead of living for other people.
“We all get so lost in living for others and somewhere forget ourselves... take time out for you!” she said. “Love yourself first completely for whatever you are, however you are and tell yourself that you are beautiful, every single day. Pamper yourself, embrace yourself, discover who you are, and accept that and be okay with you being you. The rest I think will just follow.”
“Keep your positive jar full, it is easy for the negatives to take their place, take risks and be ready to fail and you will discover things about yourself that might just surprise you.”

In addition, Ramanuj Venkatesh believes that a New Year’s resolution is not really necessary to exact change. Rather, it is a continuous process that requires constant action in the right direction. A long-term resident of Oman, Ramanuj – or Ram to his friends – went to school in Oman before returning to the Sultanate to take up his first professional job.
The 34-year-old has since gone on to work in both Oman and the UAE, and has learned much from what life had in store for him. He says the lessons he’s learned have made him stronger and more perceptive to the challenges that lie ahead, and he took the time to speak to T Weekly and ask people to believe in themselves during testing times.
“Looking back on 2018, I had a mix of ups and downs coupled with some lessons learnt from prior mistakes,” he recalled. “However, certain events that stand out for who I am include my real test of facing adversity when my cards were down. This involved pushing hard and strong to deliver results in an office when criticism was looming. Another instance worth mentioning was the recent passing away of my dear friend, which conveyed a message to me to get tough and hold my ground when the storm of adversity keeps blowing.”
“I do not have any New Year resolutions per se,” added Ram. “However, I have certain sustainable plans which should stand out and translate into good results. This would involve going to bed early, reading a book every month, learning a musical instrument and striving for perfection in my job. I am looking forward to a promising yet challenging year. Given the current economic circumstances and competitive work environment, I will keep my head held high and march ahead with courage and determination, not just with hope but with unnerving confidence.”
He added, “I would advise others to work with passion and dedication by listening to their souls. This will help them see a better future for years.”
It is important to remember that the New Year is not meant to be an avenue for drastic character transformations. It is a period for people to reflect on their past lifestyles and promise to effect more positive lifestyle changes. Thus, setting small attainable goals throughout the year instead of a big singular goal on the first of January can make it easier to achieve whatever you are striving for.
But to find out what went on through the psyche of those who grappled with sticking to their New Year’s resolutions, T Weekly also got in touch with Dr Nutaila Al Kharusi, a psychologist and the managing director of Al Harub Medical Center, a clinic which provides counselling services to children, adolescents and families.
“It is also essential to recognise that the extent of change does not matter as much as the act of acknowledging that lifestyle change and working towards it gradually,” she explained. “In essence, making New Year resolutions into goals that are small and realistic, means that there is a greater chance that you will adhere to them throughout the year and instil them in your everyday life.”
“Remember, change takes time,” added Al Kharusi. “Replacing unhealthy habits with healthier ones take a long time and it’s not easy. Don’t beat yourself up about it if it doesn’t work out. Recognise the efforts that you put into attaining these goals. Requesting help and support to attain these goals is ideal as this makes your journey much easier when you share your struggles and fears with others. Good luck!”
But the inability to commit to one’s New Year’s resolution may not be something over which you need to beat yourself up (please don’t make that your resolution). It’s just the way we are wired as individuals. It is, however, as a community that we achieve our goals. That is the reason most therapy sessions are held in groups.
“Part of the problem is that people are generally bad at ignoring their current state to make decisions about how they will feel in the future,” said Jake Campling, Jackie Andrade, David J. Kavanagh and Jon May of the British Psychological Society. “Each one of these decisions is made harder by the fact that we respond strongly to rewards that are available right now than to rewards we shall receive after a delay. We are biologically programmed to live for the present.”
Nothing that is worth doing, after all, is easy. Campling, Andrade, Kavanagh and May have suggested several techniques to help you battle your binge-eating demons, or control your cravings. These include getting social support, planning to stay in control, and recognising the short-term benefits of control. Another strong tactic that works effectively is picturing the new you. A picture after all does speak a thousand words, and the positive mental impact this has could be far greater than a simple verbal commitment.
They added, “When someone with a New Year resolution to lose weight is faced with the option of buying a healthy lunch or the unhealthy lunch that they are craving, there is competition between the two desires. The long-term desire to lose weight and be healthier at the end of the year is pitted against the desire for the immediately available tempting food.
“One problem with this kind of decision is the timescale,” said Campling and Co. “If you look at it rationally, the prospect of becoming healthier or living longer should outweigh any desires for unhealthy meals and snacks. However, we don’t always make these logical, long-term choices. Instead, we tend to discount or devalue rewards that we must wait for, a phenomenon known as delay discounting. The longer it is until you will receive the reward, the less you value it.”
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How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions

1. Make only one resolution, it helps in channelling your energy towards one goal.
2. Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to choose your resolution. Take some time out a few days before.
3. Avoid previous resolutions – you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.
4. Don’t follow the herd. Think about what you want in life.
5. Break your goal into a series of steps – make it one that is measurable and time-based.
6. Tell your friends and family about your goals.
7. Give yourself a small reward when you achieve one of the steps en route to your goals.
8. Create a journal to plan and document your progress.
9. Stay motivated and make a checklist of how achieving your resolution will help you.
10. Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time. The important thing is to learn from them.
Source – The UK’s National Health Service

The most common New Year’s resolutions
1. Begin a meditation practice.
2. Discover something new each day.
3. Get a hobby.
4. Eat less.
5. Read more.
6. Be more grateful.
7. Quit procrastinating.
8. Strive to be more confident.
9. Appreciate the little things.
10. Put away some time a day for yourself.
Source - Quora