It takes 21-days to make a habit, so let's talk about your New Year's resolution

Post by Siya Natseva. Follow Siya on her blog, PumpUp (@cinnamonontop), and Instagram/Tumblr cinnamonontop8.

With January almost out the door, is it possible to still set some reasonable health goals for yourself? My resounding ‘Yes’ may have something to do with procrastination on my side this year! Let’s briefly run through my the pitfalls of New Year Resolutions and how to prevent failure.

I’ve never been fond of New Year Resolutions. They’re among those silly rituals people pretend to follow to give themselves a sense of purpose. The mantra whereby you actually do without vowing to do is, in this author’s view, as efficient as they can get, and my choice to start anew in January has little to do with world’s obsession with New Year Resolutions.

Why do most New Year’s Resolutions fail? 

1. Lack of commitment

In startlingly many cases, people aren’t committed to resolutions that they’ve made. The group mentality of the human race – which I’m happy to say rarely affects me - dictates that when a large number of people participate in something, it’s also expected of us to partake. And so, on an annual basis we are faced with the fateful moment of promising to quit smoking, start eating healthily and chasing after that dream job. Whether we truly believe in our goal and intend to work towards it is beside the point. Come November, this momentum wanes, creating a domino effect upon resolution-makers. 

 2.     Timing

Although the start of a new year sounds like the perfect time to rectify past wrong-doings, it’s also the worst. Having the blues in January is nothing short of customary. The anti-climax of the New Year hits hard and exercise, for example, is the least of our concerns.  When January rears its head, everyone is back in the office and companies set business objectives for the next 300-something days. It’s hardly helpful the days are short and darkness veils us at four pm. With stressful schedules ahead, it’s easy to understand why January isn’t the right moment to commence a journey of any sort.

 3.     Enthusiasm wears off

These factors soon lead to reduced levels of enthusiasm. Routine settles comfortably behind the steering wheel and self-reassuring statements, the likes of ‘It’s different now’, fly out of the window. Before we know it, it’s March and we’re yet to conquer planning meals, hitting the gym, embracing a positive attitude. Either that, or come March – after a string of gym visits and healthy eating – we’re tired of it, consider we can’t keep it up and give in.

What can you do about it?

1.     It’s about the now

As much as I say no one should rush into anything without studying it, there’s no time like now. It may be January 5th, or February 2nd. If you decide to go ahead with your fitness journey – or return to your programme after a setback - you should. Often, the longer you rationalise and analyse, the more convinced you become it’s unsustainable. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t put your trainers on and run in the park for 20 odd minutes. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do a few sets of core exercise in the comfort of your home. Right now. Not tomorrow. Not next week or next month. Now.  

 2.     Leave the stress behind

If you’re like me, once you set yourself a task, you have to see it through at any cost. This zealous outlook frequently causes me unhealthy doses of stress. Working out is no exception, yet research shows that stress is immensely counter - productive to our health journeys. Instead of beating myself over the inability to exercise due to, say, exhaustion, I should see it as a motive to do superbly tomorrow. Naturally, it’s seldom the situation. I’m not advocating for the absence of passion and discipline here; I’m saying that an overly driven approach may sometimes be disadvantageous.

3.     Think comprehensively

Think of your health as an investment. The elements that compromise it, such as exercise and wise eating habits, will enable you to lead a fulfilling life. Try assessing them as a part of the whole, not separately. This way you won’t focus on how much you dislike sports, for example. It’ll be about your overall journey to a better you; a you that is content in the knowledge that your body is cared for. Remember the mental passage, too. No physical change will materialise, if you don’t welcome the voyage of the mind. And the voyage of the mind isn’t pinned down to a single date on a calendar (January 1st). It’s a life-long pledge: one that has to be driven continually but can start at any hour, on any day, in any year. Happy Resolutions!