THE BLOG

Why We Shouldn't Bother Making Resolutions

04/01/2016 16:51 | Updated 04 January 2017

This year student Amy Goodman aims to "be vegetarian, go to the gym more and find Prince Charming on Tinder". Her goals may resonate with many millennials but are unlikely to be fulfilled. With only 8% of resolutions achieved, should we just stop wasting our time making them?

New York based life coach Annie Lin says " declaring it alone is not enough. There has to be a plan and strategies in place to ensure the follow-through." Lin suggests you establish "deadlines, accountability, and consequences or a combination thereof." She suggests choosing a goal "that truly matters to you, not just one that sounds like a good idea". After setting the goal it's "imperative to put accountability in place, either to yourself of a third party". If you don't trust yourself to scrutinise your own behaviour, then "work with a personal trainer, join a weight-loss program, hire a language tutor, or a life coach." Exercising with a "work-out buddy" is more likely to be sustainable than going it alone. And if you're planning to write a novel or your life story, consider a writing partner. To crank up the pressure on yourself to stick to your resolutions, tell all your family and friends about your plans.

Those following Lin's advice and setting a goal that truly matters may choose to embark on 'Dry January'. After New Year's Eve excesses, it seems a good idea to give your liver a rest. But a break from booze rarely lasts beyond the gruesome hangover. The Institute of Alcohol Studies found only 4% of participants were still 'dry' 6 months on.

Recovering alcoholic Richard, who has been abstinent for 15 years, encourages everyone with a problem to "not just stop for January". He appreciates that it is "one of the most depressing times of the year" but a "life-long problem requires a long term solution". For Richard, the prospect of stopping for 6 months is alien and doesn't begin to address the real issue. He finds the "Christmas relapse" increases calls to the Alcoholics Anonymous hotline. It is a natural time to seek help but only worth it if you're willing to commit.

After several weeks steadily drinking mulled wine to keep warm, many of us turn to food to soak up the booze. With an excess of delicious food available around Christmas, it is easy to overeat and many resolve to lose weight. Juliette found her "release" from the cycle of binge eating at Overeaters Anonymous. Attending meetings and following the '12 step system' she now mans the helpline, offering help to those who've hit "rock bottom"- as many do at Christmas. She appreciates that sometimes it takes the "gift of desperation" to encourage people to seek help. "Lots of work goes into recovery. We all want it to be easy and for someone to tell us what to do or fix us." But making lasting lifestyle changes is a daunting challenge and many of us turn to quick fix crash diets instead.

Setting unachievable goals, such as changing eating habits or stopping drinking, can add to the psychological burden that young people already face. Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of youth mental health charity YoungMinds says "setting unmanageable New Year's Resolutions can add to the pressure." Breaking a resolution results in self-loathing that can have detrimental effects on already vulnerable young people. Instead of committing to unachievable goals, Brennan encourages young people to "make changes to their lifestyle that are beneficial to their mental health - like taking up activities that make them happy or reduce stress, eating and sleeping well, being kinder to themselves, and reaching out for help when times are tough."

If you're fortunate enough not to be in need of help yourself, this can be an ideal time to help those who are. It can be as simple as listening. Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland believes "listening really does have the power to dramatically change how someone is feeling." A simple 'are you ok?' may suffice. "It's not always about looking for someone to fix a problem - sometimes the biggest help can be having someone to share it with." People may be worried about seeking medical assistance for fear of being stigmatized or forced to accept treatment they don't want. A supportive friend can have an enormously therapeutic impact.

If you've checked and found your friends are all OK, you can always help a stranger. With 2000 people in the UK in need of a stem cell transplant from a stranger each year, you won't have to wait in line. Jackie Graveney from charity Anthony Nolan believes "some have personal reasons to sign up and others are simply motivated to help a stranger through this simple and selfless act. However they join, each and everyone of them is a valuable potential lifesaver."

This year I won't be resolving to help myself. I won't be wasting money on a gym membership or giving up the vodka shots. Unachievable solutions create insoluble problems. This year, I'm resolving to resolve nothing. Happy 2016!