New Year? Same old you - why resolutions are a waste of time

PUBLISHED: 11:19 30 December 2016 | UPDATED: 11:20 30 December 2016

Most of us spent Christmas on the couch

Most of us spent Christmas on the couch

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Resolutions? Don’t make them. Lifestyle changes? Forget it. Paul Mackenzie offers some alternative advice to help you start the new year in a realistic frame of mind.

January is a time for new starts, renewed promises, healthy eating and good intentions. It’s a time for gym memberships, detox plans and stopping all those bad habits.

It’s a chance to wipe the slate clean, to turn over a new leaf and to start being a better you. It’s time to stop smoking, drinking and eating so much and to start exercising and lose weight.

You’re on a high after Christmas and looking forward to taking that positive feeling into the 12 months which stretch ahead filled with possibilities and opportunities, right?

Well, no probably not, because January is also a time for misery, divorce and self-loathing as all those good intentions and resolutions of January 1 fall by the wayside.

Not for nothing have boffins decided that the third Monday of the new year – January 16, this year – is the most miserable day of the year. The weather is naff, you’ve broken all your resolutions, the fun and frivolity are over and you’ve bought everything you needed from the new year sales with what little money you had left after Christmas.

Research shows that of all the resolutions made on January 1, almost half will be broken before the beginning of February, two thirds won’t see March and hardly any at all will last into the summer.

And plenty of marriages won’t last much longer. Inappropriate behaviour with colleagues at Christmas parties helps tip plenty of relationships over the edge and the holidays bring all those rows that have simmered during the year bubbling to the surface, which all leads to a spike in the number of couples filing for divorce on the first working Monday of the year. That’s January 9 this year, in case you need to make a note of the date.

So this year, although you will have spent much of the time since Christmas being bombarded with ways the new year can mean a new you – and I know you’ll find something similar all across social media – would you not be better off resolving to be the same old you?

Of course you would, you’re lovely just the way you are. In recent years a whole industry has sprung up to persuade you that you need to need to make wholesale changes to your life, and to do it now. Right now.

Don’t fall for it. Even if you do need to make some tweaks here and there, now probably isn’t the time to do it. Have another chocolate while you think it over.

OK, so you may have overdone it a bit at Christmas, but that’s what Christmas is for – is going cold turkey such a good idea?

I don’t think so, and neither does psychologist Sandi Mann. She is an expert in human emotions who teaches at UCLan in Preston and runs her own private clinic in Manchester. Not only does she have a Phd, she also has two master’s degrees, so she clearly knows a thing or two.

‘Most resolutions do fail and that’s possibly because we get carried away with trying to balance out the excesses of Christmas,’ she said.

‘Wanting to make these changes is all very well and good but you have got to have a realistic long term plan. It has to be thought out and not just a knee-jerk reaction to eating too many mince pies.

‘If you’re going to make new year resolutions, you’re probably better off making them in the spring when the weather is more conducive to eating salads or going for a walk or a jog.’

So, that’s dealt with resolutions, misplaced optimism and the pointlessness of trying to transform your life in January.

Now I propose we ditch another New Year tradition and scrap the singing of Auld Lang’s Syne at midnight on December 31.

If we’re to start 2017 in a realistic and healthy frame of mind, an 18th century Scottish poem isn’t going to do the trick, especially one that’s so concerned with looking back to times long gone.

In modern Lancashire we need something contemporary, something home grown and something we can all understand (We twa hae run about the braes, and pou’d the gowans fine, anyone?)

There’s plenty of alternatives – Happy New Year, by Abba, perhaps, or maybe Barry Manilow’s 1977 effort, It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve – but I reckon ‘You Could Get Hit By A Bus Tomorrow’ by the Lancashire Hot Pots strikes the right note.

You can eat what you like

You can drink what you like

You can even have a ciggie at a push

Don’t let them tell you what to do

Phone for another pizza and gerrit down
yer mush

Because life’s too short to worry yourself

Don’t live your life in sorrow

You can have another drink

It won’t do you any harm

You could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

While agreeing largely with the sentiment of the song, Sandi injected a note of caution into proceedings by saying: ‘Living for today can seem like a good idea but it can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle which can make it less likely you’ll see tomorrow.

‘It’s great if you’re only going to live for a short time, but if you want a longer life, a more thought through plan would probably serve you better. The song is definitely more understandable than Auld Lang’s Syne, though.

‘You have got to enjoy life and you have got to have treats and things to look forward to, but it’s a case of having everything in moderation. It’s good to have something every day that you enjoy but not to over-indulge all the time.’

So, what might you enjoy at this time of year? An energy drink, a jog and 50 press-ups maybe, or perhaps a bowl of warming soup, a roaring fire and some good company?

As the snow, hail, sleet and rain take it in turns to lash against your windows – one resolution that is worth making is to learn from others, specifically the Danes.

The Scandinavians consistently come out on top in polls to find the happiest nations and they don’t spend the first month of the year getting a sweat on in a gym, or punishing themselves for having fun at Christmas. They get all hygge.

The concept of spending the chilly winter months all snuggled up cosy with friends and family has become the biggest thing to come out of Denmark since Lego. And it’s easy to see why it’s caught on.

Aficionados of hygge (pronounced hue-gah) say it’s more than simply being cosy, it’s a lifestyle, a way of living that involves spending time with loved ones wearing woolly jumpers in room lit by candles and warmed by a roaring fire, while you share comfort food like stew and, probably, pastries.

‘I can see the appeal of hunkering down with a mug of hot chocolate in these cold winter months,’ Sandi said.

‘Maybe we’d be better off if we postponed Christmas and New Year until the spring. That’s a more optimistic time of year.’

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