Why New Year resolutions don't work (And what to do instead!)

Jan 09, 2022

I gave up on new year’s resolutions many years ago. I could never stick to them longer than a month or so (usually much less!). Then I would end up feeling crappy for not sticking with them and in the end, I just stopped setting them. Unsurprisingly, the neuroscience behind why New Year's Resolution's don't stick, is fairly comprehensive. Our brains don't like change so when we suddenly decide to start exercising or journalling or meditating at the start of January and then find it difficult to keep it up past day 3 or so, we really are fighting an uphill battle against some pretty hardwired neuro habits.

But several years ago I was introduced to setting an intention for the year. Unlike new year’s resolutions, which went out the window within weeks (if they last that long!), my intentions actually stay front of mind ALL year. They help guide my decision making throughout the year and best of all, I can’t fail! Goodbye feeling crappy for not sticking with resolutions made right after the indulgence of Christmas. Hello all the good feels!

So, let me explain how this works. The idea is to set an intention for the year ahead by choosing 1-3 feelings that you what you want to feel more of throughout the year.

Once you’ve chosen your feelings, write them down and set the intention to be the person and do the things that will bring more of that feeling/s throughout the year. 

I find it’s a really useful way to keep the big picture in mind when faced with so many small and seemingly inconsequential decisions each and every day. Small things add up to big things. For example, if we want to feel more calm, it helps to have this in mind when we are deciding on all the activities we might be scheduling into the calendar.

The best part is, it's not prescriptive, so you can't fail. Let's say you want to feel more peaceful throughout the year. Rather than having a goal of meditating 30 minutes a day, which is unlikely to last beyond January, with having an intention for more peacefulness, you can incorporate many small practices into your routine. You may well incorporate mediation as a regular practice, but you could also allow yourself 10 minutes to drink your morning brew whilst listening to the birds, or to take a few minutes to feel the sunshine on your face during your lunch break. You might schedule in a walk with a friend a few times throughout the year or take a spontaneous day-trip through the forest. All small things that can add a little more calm to your day, your week, your month or even your year..... (haha, I couldn't resist) and create a sense of peacefulness.

Having your intentions somewhere you see them often is great – mine are currently stuck on a post it on my bathroom mirror but in years gone by I've also had them in a frame on my desk.

I encourage you to give it a shot. Think about the things you want to achieve, the things you enjoy doing, the way you are currently feeling and whether you want to continue feeling that way.

If you’re struggling to pick your words, it might help to think of how you DON’T want to feel and choose a word to counter that.

I’ve linked a list of feelings to help you get started or feel free to chose your own. And don’t worry that we’re already into the year. There’s still plenty of time left in the year to fulfil your intentions.

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