Might seem a pointless endeavour to set a New Year’s Resolution for 2021 now… but we’ve got some advice.
“New Year, New Me” echoes on the canyons of social media feeds every year – sometimes beside ‘inspirational’ Live Love Laugh posts and sometimes with pretty serious intentions. It had been a pretty rollercoaster year, 2020, and we’ve all had a lot of time to think about things. Whether dead-serious or otherwise, people want to change – and a good way to do so is to start with a resolution since we have yet more time during lockdown #3.
In one Statista study, 27% of Brits surveyed said that they’ve never made a New Year’s Resolution! Which surprised me at first, but then I realised that I don’t think I’ve ever made a New Year’s Resolution…
Am I a freak? Am I a quarter of a freak? Why do people make resolutions around the new year? Does it work? Who knows?
I suppose making a resolve to change at the beginning of the year gives you a clear time-marker for measuring that change. But it also feels like the worst time of year to say, “I need to go running more”.
In a YouGov poll, only 25% of Brits even made a New Year’s resolution for 2018-19. Perhaps I’m not a freak after all.
But let’s get to the point, of the people who did make resolutions, what were the most popular?
1. More Exercise/Improving Fitness
This feels like a predictable one. At the end of every year, we realise that another year has passed and subsequently get to thinking about time, age, and health. 47% of people reported that they had planned to do more exercise and/or improve their fitness as a New Year’s Resolution.
And this makes sense, we live highly sedentary lives and improved fitness makes daily life easier – we don’t have to grunt each time we get up or sit down if our knees don’t hurt.
2. Losing Weight
Similar to the first one, though importantly different, 44% of people wanted to lose weight. This is arguably a good resolution. If you believe the Keto propaganda, starving mice live longer, so losing weight might be a better way to directly live longer. But this resolution probably has more to do with effective marketing than radical dietary shifts.
3. Improving Diet
A whopping 41% of people wanted to improve their diet – and rightfully so! A healthy diet is the largest contributor to bodily health. Now, it turns out that food available to Brits is the healthiest in the world, but just because it’s on the shelves doesn’t mean we eat it.
This survey focused only on packaged food and drinks. So out of all the highly processed food in the world, ours is marginally healthier. Cue a slow clap.
One of the most significant dietary changes to have a massive impact on the world in 2019 was Veganuary – with 350,000 people signed up for Veganuary, that meant:
- 41,200 Tonnes of CO2eq kept out of the atmosphere (or 450,000 flights from London to Berlin)
- 1 million animals not killed
- 2.5 million litres of water saved
Not to mention that, assuming the meat & dairy alternatives aren’t endless packets of crisps, eating a greener diet for a month probably made those 350,000 people significantly healthier.
So that’s cool.
4. Saving More Money
This continues the trend of resolutions largely revolving around future-proofing yourself. 31% of respondents wanted to save more money in the next year – presumably towards houses, pensions, and fast cars.
It’s certainly a sensible way to grow your security net.
5. Taking Up A New Hobby
This was one of the only common resolutions that didn’t involve health-related self-improvement. Almost all resolutions were some variation on “get more healthy” (cut down alcohol, quit smoking, etc.) – but only a few revolved around time with yourself and time with family.
Whether these resolutions were strictly adhered to or not is a whole other matter. 28% of surveyed Brits admitted to being unable to keep any of their resolutions. Needless to say, this means a lot of guitars and knitting needles are left lonely in cupboards.
So is this a problem?
Is it a problem for people to not keep New Year’s Resolutions?
Well, it depends on what angle you’re looking at it from. If you’re the person who can’t keep the resolution then you’re perhaps not terribly glad about that, but – is it a problem with you or a problem with the resolutions? Often, you just need to be more specific about a change.
On the flip side, if you’re reading this as a company looking to support people in making changes (to your products, presumably) then you’re likely to want resolutions to stick.
So what are the best ways to make resolutions stick?
A resolution such as ‘get healthier’ is a very vague ambition. It’s so vague that it’s not clear how you’d measure it or what you’d do to get to it.
Are you going to go straight to the gym and lift weights all day? That might make your arms stronger but it might also ruin your body. What’s more, is if you’re judging ‘healthier’ by the size of your waist then you’re likely to be disheartened as soon as you realise your waist has got larger with all the new muscle mass.
So you need to be specific. Have a broader resolution but then also have specific, measurable mini-goals to get there.
Things such as “do 25 pushups every day” are simple enough to keep track of. Something like “be really good at pushups” is not.
These should all work towards the larger goal, being able to do a certain number of pushups, being able to run a certain distance in a certain time, and being able to do any other number of things could lead you to say “hey! I’ve got a lot healthier this year!”.
It’s not all or nothing
I quit smoking about a year and a half ago because my partner convinced me to do so. I had little interest in quitting and it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution (more of a new birthday resolution) but I managed to do it despite having smoked for over a decade.
Maybe I got lucky, but I feel like most people who try to quit smoking or drinking enter a huge ordeal with it because they treat it as an all-or-nothing task. As if having one cigarette with a friend means they’ve disastrously failed and that this means they – as a person – are failures. I have had a cigarette with a friend since, but having the attitude of “I’ve not failed, this is a one-off” means that you don’t have the guilt of failure attached to it.
This doesn’t have to apply to quitting addictions, it can apply to anything you want to achieve. If you’re trying a new diet but you’re still craving, say, a blueberry muffin, treat yourself. Just make sure that it’s a treat, not a return to normal.
Don’t make a big deal about it (or do)
This depends on the kind of person you are. Sometimes it helps people to make a big deal about a behaviour change because often the support of friends is a huge help. Sometimes, it can be more helpful to just change behaviour – not in secret, but also not especially publicly.
What I mean here is that a behaviour change is something that you want to become a new normal way of doing things. Acting as if this new behaviour is normal for you often really helps to actually make it normal.
Let’s take another personal experience as an example, I stopped eating meat while I was at Uni. I did so mostly because of the whale at the end of Blue Planet (🥺), but I didn’t tell everyone about it because I liked eating meat and I didn’t want to immediately give it up. I just started choosing the veggie options when eating out and making a point of planning meat-free meals. Soon enough, I wasn’t bothered about meat.
I think that, had I made a point of telling people that I’m now vegetarian, the guilt of wanting to eat the occasional meaty meal would have probably made me quit the label and go back to eating a hundred Sainsbury’s Meal Deals every day.
The most lasting change is often incremental, so don’t put too much pressure on it to happen immediately.