Updated: Jan 3, 2019
It’s getting on towards the new year now (35 days to go at the time of writing), and for many of us, that means New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us might even think we’ll keep them, with a Hope-Springs-Eternal-Every-Day-In-Every-Way-Better-And-Better Positivism.
But let’s be honest. We start out with the very best intentions but… January is a bleak part of the year in much of our small planet’s Northern Hemisphere, and it’s difficult to carry out Grand Plans for self-transformation when the weather is crap, colds, flu, and other Winter ailments have everyone around you feeling like crap, work is crap, there are no more major holidays or time off for a while, and it may well be that all that you can see before you is a barren 3-month long emotional wasteland of paying down holiday debt, eating celery and that gluten-free sawdust stuff everyone says is so good for a flat stomach, before even the faintest hint of Spring arrives to lighten your stony, demoralised little heart.
It’s genuinely difficult to start up an exercise regime when the weather is more inclement than not, too. It’s not entirely your woefully weak will that finally makes you jump off that wagon, with a sigh of mixed resignation and relief, sometime during the third week of January. I’ve seen it firsthand, year after year. I used to work as a lifeguard and a swimming instructor, and every January, the pool would be chock-full of well-intentioned night swimmers, clocking in after work hours to swim and get fit…
…By the middle of February, all but two or three of these enthusiastic new swimmers vanish, never to be seen again.
And here are two interesting facts that explain why sometimes our very best intentions fail.
1. It typically takes 6 — 8 weeks to form a new habit (any new habit, unless it’s some kind of highly addictive substance abuse habit). So, until you’ve carried your New Year’s resolution through to at least the middle of February, you’re still on probation.
2. Taking up a new habit or starting a new regime with enthusiasm can take a heavy psychological toll, especially in the first 6 — 8 weeks, if our initial enthusiasm is greater than our ability (physical or mental) to carry out said regime. In other words, when crafting your amazing transformation, in order to succeed, you need to set smaller, more realistic goals, and have the patience and determination to reach them.
Think of it: you sign up for a gym membership, with the intention of working out there as hard as you can every day, and getting ripped and 6-packed by the time March rolls around. After three days in a row of this, your muscles ache, your whole body feels inflamed, and you’re having difficulty wiping your own arse without half your body feeling like it’s on fire from the effort of movement. So you skip a day (of exercise, not wiping your arse, hopefully)… maybe four. Maybe a week…. you get the picture.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And the physical setback of your over-enthusiastic start takes a psychological toll: you suddenly feel that you won’t be an amazing chick (or dude) magnet by March. And, well, that beer in the fridg