#Mindfulness

#resolutionfail: Why most of our resolutions keep failing

Taking a look at people’s New Year’s resolutions is, in a way, like taking a still of society. For some years now, there’s been a shift away from self-centered goals in favour of social values.

So, rather than trying to achieve the long-standing resolution number one — losing weight — more and more people are giving more thought to social values: likely even more so in 2021.

2019, for example, saw 64 per cent of people who were looking to make a change planning to ‘avoid and reduce stress‘ , ‘making more time for family and friends’, and ‘doing more to reduce their impact on the environment and climate’. This was the result of a representative survey carried out by ‘Forsa’ for the health insurance company ‘DAK‘. One in four respondents wanted to spend less time online and were questioning their use of their mobile phones. Sounds like good news, right?

In 2021, be inspired to focus on your inner self

In 2020, everyone will have had to take a step back and experienced fear in one way or another: fear for our health, fear for our jobs, fear of losing our freedoms, and fear of not being able to return to life as we know it. All of these are totally valid fears during a crisis.

But all these thoughts have one good thing in common: they have shown us just how valuable the things are that we’ve so far taken for granted in our lives: being able to give somebody a hug, being able to get on a plane, or popping to our favourite café on a Sunday.

And it will be the reason why many of us will be making quite different New Year’s resolutions than in previous years.

This month, we at Humanoo have been wondering just why it is that we tend to set new goals for each New Year and why it is that most of them fail.

And we would like to inspire you with this article to establish sustainable routines rather than chasing after superficial goals. After all, we don’t want you to be exhausted and disappointed with yourself by the end of the month.

Instead, we hope you will be able to lay the foundations for a healthy year that will bring you closer to your inner self and make your everyday life more fulfilling. Find out how to do it right here.

Why many New Year’s resolutions fail: 90 percent don’t stick to them

The hashtag #resolutionfail starts trending right at the start of January —
and it’s what inspired the title of this month’s theme.

What does that tell us about our ambitions? According to the studies carried out by the British psychologist Richard Wiseman, 90 per cent of people don’t manage to stick to their resolutions. What we’d like to know is: why?

Let’s take a look at this experiment to see what’s going on in the brain when that happens. It’s an issue that Professor Baba Shiv, an expert in neuroeconomics at California’s Stanford University has researched.

He placed his students in two groups:

  • group 1 was asked to remember a two-digit number, while
  • group 2 was asked to remember a seven-digit number.

While the students were trying to remember their number, they had access to a buffet and were asked to choose a dessert: chocolate cake or fruit salad.

The students who had been asked to remember the seven-digit number were nearly twice as likely to choose the chocolate cake than the students who were only asked to remember the two-digit number. You may be wondering what that has to do with New Year’s resolutions

According to Professor Shiv, being able to stick to your resolutions requires strength of will.
If we take a look at our brains, the part responsible for willpower is located at the front of the head within the cerebral cortex: the prefrontal cortex. But it’s also responsible for other things, among them:

  • our short-term memory,
  • concentration,
  • and our ability to solve abstract problems.

So, when your brain is working overtime or is reaching its limits (like when it has to remember a seven-digit number), it might not be able to summon the willpower to get you out of your comfort zone so that you can try out new things and be disciplined in sticking to your goals. Or, as here: you’re more likely to go for the unhealthy chocolate cake than for the healthy fruit salad.

What we want to say is this: don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go quite the way you want them to in January. It’s not always because you’re lazy or lack discipline, but may simply mean that you haven’t got the headspace to muster the necessary willpower.

Which brings us to the next point: what can help us reach our goals in the long term?

1. Whenever you set a goal, it’s worth asking: who is it actually about?

If you search for ‘sticking to your New Year’s resolutions’ on Google, you’ll get 87 million results — so it really seems to be a topic people have a lot to say about. ‘Seven steps for making your New Year’s resolutions stick’ followed closely by ‘Scientifically proven ways to make your New Year’s resolutions stick’.

Media outlets already start telling us as early as December why it’s so important to set goals. Instagram and co. bombard us with ads by self-proclaimed coaches and gurus — all promising to create a better version of ourselves — hallelujah!

The problem: with this constant bombardment from the outside with the topic, we’re prone to setting goals that don’t really align with our personal goals. We want to lose weight because the influencers on social media look so fit. We want to study Spanish because being able to speak lots of languages is trending. We want to separate our rubbish into different types for recycling because everybody else does it and we’re made to feel ashamed for not doing it. And, just like that, you’ve set goals without even questioning your motivation.

Scientists agree that we’ll only work towards our goals in the long term if we’re really convinced by them and intrinsically motivated to pursue them.

So, what we should actually do is to think really hard and listen to our hearts. It’s the only way you’ll be able to work out what you really want deep down — as opposed to what you’re led to believe thanks to all the external influence.

It’s always worth questioning your motives in setting goals and whether the outcome will be making you or mostly other people happy. Definitely take your time to think about it.

2. Work on making some headspace

  • Make sure you always get a really good night’s sleep. Did you know that the part of the brain responsible for remembering goals regenerates in your sleep? Conversely, it means that your ability to remember is reduced when you don’t sleep enough.

    Try this: the patter of raindrops has a very relaxing effect on the body and mind. It can help you fall asleep and forget your everyday stress.

    Under ‘World of sound’ on the Humanoo app, you’re sure to find some suitable sounds that will help you get a restful night’s sleep.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you find you’re not getting anywhere with your new goals, simply let them go.

    Beating yourself up about them just increases the pressure and will make you even more nervous the next time around. Research has shown that pressure is counterproductive when it comes to achieving your goals.

    It’s easier to set goals when you’re relaxed and enjoying the journey. So, if you notice things aren’t really going the way you’d like them to: don’t hold onto your plan at all cost. Rather, shut your eyes and meditate for a while.

    It will calm you and strengthen your inner connection with yourself, which will give you more strength to take the next step.

    You’ll find a lot of programmes on awareness that will help you remove the brain fog on our Humanoo app. (Link to download the app?)
  • Focus on your breathing. Maybe your first thought just then was: what has breathing got to do with my goals? Let us explain.

    In Ayurveda medicine, breathing is known as ‘Prana’. The term is Sanskrit for ‘life force’. As such: when we breathe, we’re supplying our system with life force to give it the strength to tackle our everyday tasks.

    And now ask yourself: how often do you consciously breathe in such a way that you fill your chest and abdomen with life?

    Unfortunately, most of us do it either far too rarely or never at all. In stressful situations, above all, we are prone to shallow breathing, which deprives our bodies and minds of valuable energy. At first ‘breathing properly’ sounds trivial, but it’s actually quite challenging.

    To make getting started easier and to promote your concentration, there is a section on our App called ‘Concentration’, where you can learn about breathing techniques used in yoga that will help you focus.

3. It’s still winter in January: it’s a good time to set goals — but not necessarily to achieve them

In one of our recent articles, we already spoke about how winter is a time to find your inner self and to reflect: nature is taking some time out, the days are getting shorter, and it’s becoming darker. It’s as if we had a trusted voice whispering in our ear saying ‘lay low, stick to yourself, and look for your inner self.

You’d be forgiven for wondering why we always cause ourselves so much stress from 1 January… We’ve only just got through all the Christmas stress, some of us wake up feeling hungover, and it doesn’t really feel like a time for new beginnings. Why is it then that we put ourselves under so much pressure just because the calendar tells us it’s January?

Winter is and always will be a time for introspection. We have less energy and everything feels that bit harder. Our bodies produce more of the sleep hormone melanin and less of the happiness hormone serotonin.

How about instead using January and February to have a good look back at last year and using your insights to set sustainable goals that you can mull over for a while before enacting them?

The start of spring (that’s 21 March, by the way) — when the leaves start growing, the animals wake up from a winter in hibernation, and there’s a certain optimism in the air — is the time to actually spring into action.

Safe to say you’ll suddenly find it a lot easier to get going and focus your energy on a particular target.

4. Notice the little successes and master the ability to show yourself some compassion

Think about just how many temptations you face every day: procrastination thanks to social media, the bar of chocolate in the kitchen, or the tempting TV controller on the sofa.

What we want to say is this: just because you don’t always act in line with the new goals you’ve set doesn’t mean that you’re failing or that you’re not making positive changes.

So, even if you’re falling a bit behind when it comes to your New Year’s resolutions, give yourself some slack and just keep on doing the things you can manage — no matter how small they may be.

Maybe you took the time to listen to somebody who needed a chat, paid more attention to your own needs, or managed to say ‘no’ to something today even though you would have liked it. Researchers agree that we’re more likely to stick to our resolutions if we grant ourselves the freedom to deviate from the strict plan we’ve set from time to time.

In other words: don’t set your rules too strictly and give yourself some space to deviate from the plan from time to time. After all, you’re a human and not a robot (luckily!).

Your body and mind have individual and differing needs from one day to the next and they are not (!) made to have the same amount of energy and do the same amount of work every single day.

Treating yourself and others with compassion and understanding is a milestone in our personal development that can allow us to break free. It’s something we can be immensely proud of — and it’s something that starts within ourselves.

So, what are your thoughts on New Year’s resolutions now?

We hope we have been able to inspire you with this article to gain a new perspective on the whole issue surrounding New Year’s resolutions.

And remember: you don’t need a date like 1 January to make changes. Any time is a good time for new beginnings. Set small and realistic goals that you really want to achieve deep down. Turn down the volume on the outside influences and instead listen to the little voice inside you. After all, it’s the one that knows what’s actually good for you and what you need.

For those among us who have never worked out regularly, meditated, or eaten a balanced diet, it takes time to make changes. It’s not something that happens from one day to the next. So, take your time — and, above all, be flexible.

And if you do end up falling back into your old ways: don’t worry — just think of the magic of the next moment. It’s already lying in waiting and you can get started again at any time — there’s no need to give up.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for you and hope that what you’ve set your mind on will work out — with our programmes and tips providing some great support.

Your Humanoo-Team

Written by HUMANOO Experts Team

Originally published on 3. January 2021

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