New year resolution: Does it really work?

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New Year resolution is a worldwide affair. The New Year eve has always been a time to look back to the past, and more importantly forward to the coming year. It is a time to reflect on the changes one wants to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. The start of the New Year is often the perfect time to turn a new page in one’s life. But why do so many people have a hard time keeping their resolutions?

MICHAEL AMADI writes.

KELLY Nwachukwu, a graduate working in one of the private firms made a New Year resolution to quit his chain-smoking and heavy alcoholic intake. At first, he bore himself bravely, his band of hope had never been broken and he seemed to be shaping well. But it lasted just for a month or two and he started all over again, this time heavier.

New Years Resolutions
New Years Resolutions

His job was soon neglected, health began to suffer, trembling hands told of damaged nerves. Hitherto carefully groomed, he became careless and shabby. Warnings from his boss steadied him for a moment, for he was in the grip of the twin friends of smoking and drinking. He fastened the talons of his passion on the drifting carcass of sensual pleasure and was being carried on to disaster.

Turned adrift by his employer and landlord, his property was sold; he continued to smoke and drink until he squandered every penny he possessed. A generous legacy that might have given him a splendid fresh start was lost in a month. Homeless with every friend alienated, he wandered aimlessly about, until at last, he drifted into an inhabited locality – call it a big village or a small town and everything was completely out of his reach; food; clothings, shelter, money and even strength.

Yes, New Year resolution is like a blind man, looking into a dark room for a black cat that is not there and finding it. New Year resolution is a promise that someone makes to himself or herself to start doing something good or stop something bad on the first day of the year.

Some take it seriously, some bid it goodbye just after the clock strikes twelve. Some call it a second chance to dream with eyes open. Some say it is a goal that you propose then forget the next day. Others say it is an assessment of, and often delusional attempt to correct one’s shortcomings. It is not surprising that most resolutions are abandoned by the start of the week. New year resolution – no one can deny having made some.

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People change with time so do their aspirations. Seriously taken, new year resolution is an opportunity to guage goals. For the adventurous souls, it is the opportunity to tickle a funny bone or to try something bold.

Some made loads of resolutions on New Year eve, but failed to assess how far they have stood by them. Some feel that the resolutions they made last year and abandoned midway are worth a second chance, give it another chance. Make a resolution that would have significance and add meaning to your life.

New Year resolution seem so exciting and full of promise on January 1st, but by the middle of the week, many people have already gone back to the previous life. Fewer than one in five adults who made health-related New Year resolutions were able to make any significant strides in weight loss. Some promised themselves to eat more healthily, give up smoking and drinking, do their assignment the same day they got it, eat less junk food, exercise more and live overall healthier, more productive, studious, exciting and fulfilling life.

Civilization around the world has been celebrating the start of each New Year for at least four millennia. Today most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31st (New Year eve) the last day of the calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1st (New Year day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s food, making resolutions for the New Year and watching fireworks displays.

The practice of making New Year resolution goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives people the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical happens at midnight on December 31st.  Though the bible did not speak for or against the concept of New Year resolution.

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However, if someone determines to make a new year resolution will depend on his or her personal experience. Common New Year resolutions are commitments to quit smoking or drinking, to manage money more wisely and to spend more time with family.

By far, the most common New Year resolution is to lose weight, exercise more and eating more healthily. Resolving to stop or start doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity.

It has become popular for people to make fun of New Year resolution (they never work) in an almost gleeful way, why not these fake January people get out of the way; only few people understand why these resolutions don’t work. But how would you feel after claiming to do something and end up not doing it? People would rather continue doing something new that could work – but also could fail.

Think about resolutions from last January, many did not follow through, some don’t even remember what they were, still many were tempted to make more resolutions this year. But why do New Year resolutions fail? Researchers have looked at success rate of people’s resolutions, the first two weeks usually go along beautifully, but by February people are back sliding and by the next December, most people are back where they started.

Why do so many people not keep to their resolutions? Are people just weak-willed or lazy? According to researcher John Norcross and his colleagues, who published their findings in the “Journal of Clinical Psychology”, approximately 50 per cent of the population makes resolutions each New Year.

Timothy Pychyl, a professor of Psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination”, an effort to re-invent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves. He argued that people are not ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. Another reason, says Dr Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.

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Psychology Professor, Peter Herman and his colleagues, have identified what they call “Failse Hope Syndrome”., which means their resolutions is significantly unrealistic and this principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmation about yourself that you don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self esteem.

The other aspect of failed resolutions lies in the course and effect relationship. You may think that if you stop smoking and drinking, or lose weight, or reduce your debts, or exercise more, your entire life will change and when it doesn’t, you may be discouraged and then you revert back to old behaviours.

Making resolutions work is essentially changing behaviours and in order to do that, you have to change your thinking and “rewire” your brain. Brain scientist such as Anthonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux and psychotherapist, Stephen Haves have discovered through the  use of Magnetic Resonance Imagings (MRIs) that habitual behaviour is created by thinking.

Patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behaviour when you are faced with a choice or decision. Trying to change the default thinking by “not trying to do it in effect just strengthens it” Change requires creating new neural pathways for new thinking.

Some of the respondents who spoke to National Light, having established the fact that it takes great courage to beg, admitted they have made new year resolutions severally without standing by them, and added that those who claim they stand by them go about doing what they renounced and denounced secretly, while others say they stood by their new year resolutions and emphasized that it takes great determination to make it work. Whichever way, it is a yearly affair whether achievable or not.

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