As we find ourselves emerging from this festive period, ‘New Year’s resolutions’ is the phrase everyone is talking about. From committing yourself to a rigorous new exercise regime, restricting your lunch to a stick of celery, or even the gallant claim that you are going to travel the world. We all like to start the New Year with a goal, the claim of achieving something new and making a change. It would seem like the perfect time to start afresh.

A Historic Tradition

New Year’s resolutions actually date back centuries, before Weightwatchers brought in their first calorie counting diet plan, or your local gym decided to do a mega discount membership in January. New Year’s resolutions can, in fact, be traced back as far as the Babylonians in the 23rd century, when people made promises to the gods at the beginning of each calendar year that all their debts would be repaid.

However, despite this rooted history and the good intentions we start out with, as gloomy as it may seem, by February the phrase has dropped off the conversation and so have the promises that once accompanied it. A recent survey showed that despite an incredible 95% of Brits committing to a New Year’s resolution, 88% of them will fail.

And Now for the Science

So why do we find it so hard to follow through? To understand why, it helps to delve a little bit deeper into the psychology of it all. Willpower can be described as one’s ability to resist temptation or defy our impulses and do what is right. This is a concept I find fascinating and something that psychologists have trialed and investigated for years. One theory that seems to ring true is what’s known as the ‘muscle metaphor’. It works if you think of the brain as a muscle. As with all muscles in our bodies, if you were to overload it, the only thing that will happen is that it will give up. If you think about it, a New Year’s resolution is really just about sustaining your willpower over a number of months to achieve a goal.

So when you are staring down the barrel of a New Year and with everything else that January brings, such as credit card bills and that depressing moment when you take down the Christmas decorations, it seems that our New Year’s resolutions might just be too much for our brains to take.

Make Your Resolution Count

So this year, in order to make your New Year’s resolutions stick, remember to make it small and make it count and your New Year’s resolution might just make it into March.

Sophie Ivison