Why do my New Year’s Resolutions falter?

Chronic pain relief

How many times have you made New Year’s Resolutions? And how many of them have faltered or already fallen by the wayside?

If you’re anything like the majority of the population, the New Year’s Resolutions you made at the beginning of January may already have been abandoned.

Every year we make plans with the very best of intentions: to be more active, to take up a new hobby, learn a new language or finally finish that book which has been gathering dust on the bedside table since August.

And yet, our New Year’s Resolutions rarely work. Why is that?

Every year companies make millions out of our good intentions, as gym memberships momentarily make us feel better then lay dormant, evening classes are abandoned, and new books or exercise equipment goes unused.

According to Lissa Rankin MD, this is because New Year’s Resolutions are made by your conscious mind, and do not affect your unconscious mind. The problem is, neither your body nor your unconscious mind has any idea what day of the year it is. You may decide to wholly revolutionise your life, but your body isn’t necessarily going to be able to keep up with you just because it’s January 1st.

While the ceremony and social scrutiny of a New Year’s Resolution may be enough motivation for some people to make meaningful positive changes, most of us need a bit more help. Studies have shown that successfully implementing New Year’s Resolutions is much less about the time of year, and more about the formation of habits.

Lissa Rankin says: “The power of the subconscious mind explains why positive thinking only gets you so far. How many times have you read self-help books, taken workshops, made New Year’s resolutions, and vowed to improve your life, only to realise a year later that your life is no better? Since the conscious mind is only functioning 5 percent of the time, it has little power to overcome the weighty influence of the subconscious mind. To effect lasting changes in belief, you must change your beliefs not just at the level of the conscious mind, but in the subconscious mind.”(1)

So instead of resolving to make a complete and sudden change, just because it’s New Year, why not try implementing smaller, more manageable changes? Changes that are important to you whatever the time of year.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you ‘failed’ at your New Year’s resolution, there’s no point trying again until next January. Is that really true? If you didn’t manage to hit your target of, say, going for a walk every day in January, why not trying getting out once a week in February? And then two or three times a week in March?

Small changes can lead to sound habit formation and incalculable success. Taking time to make changes to your life and routine means you can bring your unconscious mind along too, and those New Year’s Resolutions will flourish!

(1): Rankin, L. 2013. Mind over Medicine. London: Hay House UK.