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Why breaking your New Year’s resolution is the best thing you can do this January

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Lauren Geall
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Why you should break your New Years Resolutions

Are you struggling to keep your 2020 resolutions on the 7th day of the year? Here’s why letting them go completely might be the smartest move…

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that making a resolution is a lot easier than keeping one. However good our intentions may be as the clock strikes midnight on the 1 January, it doesn’t take long before we’re back to our old ways. Occasionally, there’ll be those few that really stick, but they’re few and far between.

If you’re a serial resolution breaker, you’re certainly not alone – studies have shown that only 19% of people actually keep to their resolutions. But before you start your grand plans to “be better” next January and spend the next 11 months lamenting your “weakness”, you might want to consider the benefits of breaking your New Year’s resolutions before the first month of the year is out.

Studies have shown that a conscious desire to have better self-control could actually do the exact opposite; essentially, the more we want self-control, the less likely we are to have it. By having new year’s resolutions – and attempting to hold ourselves back and resist certain temptations (even if they are in the name of self-improvement) – we could actually be making it harder to do the thing we want.

“New Year’s resolutions are conscious desires to have better self-control with bells on,” Bence Nanay writes for Psychology Today. “So, if you want to achieve something in the new year, the worst way to do so is by making a New Year’s resolution.”

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So, what’s the alternative? Of course, if resolutions work for you, that’s great. But for those of us who end up breaking them every single year, it could be time for a rethink.

Of course, all changes require a certain amount of self-control – but there’s something to be said for setting well-planned, achievable goals instead of straight resolutions. For example, while a resolution may be something like “I want to stop smoking”, a realistic goal might be to cut down the number you’re smoking per day. This way, you’re not trying to exert too much self-control – and this makes success a lot more likely. 

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There’s also something to be said for taking the pressure off a little, especially when we’re trying to make big changes.

“If you tell yourself you have to do this or you have to do that, you’re just going to pile the pressure on and fall at the first hurdle,” Daniel Fryer, a psychotherapist and author of The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up… And How To Fix Them, previously told Stylist. “It’s about flexibility.

“Instead of saying ‘I have to achieve these things’ like ‘I have to stop smoking,’ say ‘this is what I would really like to happen, but it doesn’t have to’,” he continues. “If you take the pressure off and you give yourself flexibility you’re more likely to make the right choice to help you achieve that goal.”

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So next time you go to punish yourself for taking a step out of line or making a mistake, remember that forcing self-control upon yourself is likely to take you even further from your goal.

After all, who even decided that January is the only time of the year we get to make a change? Life is all about balance – save all that big stuff for a month where the sun actually makes an appearance.

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Lauren Geall

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