Are New Year’s Resolutions Effective?
New Year New You? Or a Dose of Dopamine
With New Year on the horizon, I have been pondering…. I ponder quite a lot! Anyway my pondering has been- what will my New Year’s resolution be? Which became a slightly sheepish…What on earth was it last year?…which then turned (rather quickly after reflecting on last years lack of success) into…shall I bother making a New Year’s Resolution at all?
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually stuck to any New Year’s Resolution that I’ve made. Such resolutions for me have usually been things like ‘To stop biting my nails and to actually grow them… To stop stuffing my face with junk food… To remember to take my vitamins…The theme seems to generally be to actually remember to do the self care that I know would be really beneficial. That is not to say that I never do any of these things, or that I never meet a goal, but rarely do they actually happen as a result of me deciding that I would like them to happen as a New Year’s resolution as we leave one year and move into the next.
Maybe I’m alone here, maybe you are reading this while smugly thinking about your long list of New-Year’s-resolutions-that-have-of-course-been-achieved, but if you’re not, or your smug list is very short, hear me out…What IF the actual benefit of making promises to ourselves in January, is not the completion of the goals themselves but the anticipation of achieving them- the process of visualising the positive result that we hope to get when we stick to our resolutions, and looking forward to it. It’s always the benefits of my resolution that I look forward to, how I will enjoy admiring my nails when I’ve they are beautifully manicured (not happened yet- maybe I need to REALLY concentrate on this one this year- it sounds so nice!). Or, how good it will feel when my jeans are less snug as a result of flippantly saying ‘no thanks’ to anything other than fresh unprocessed ‘clean’ food (That one never makes it to January 2nd! And I obviously don’t even start until the 2nd because it would be ridiculous to attempt such things on New Year’s Day ).
So it’s the benefits that I look forward to, not the actual act of abstaining from nibbling either my nails or Maccies plant burgers. So maybe, as I think I said before I was distracted by shiny nails and fast food, the benefit comes the anticipation of the results we will get when we make these promises to ourselves and not the reality of whether or not we actually achieve them. It would of course be great to succeed and do these things, but what if we don’t. Is the whole thing a complete waste of our brain power or is it actually serving a purpose regardless of the results. Is the actual benefit, the dose of dopamine that we get from setting resolutions, imagining them being achieved, and looking forward to it during those gloomy January months? Are they actually useful in getting us through the post Christmas slump, without dragging our heels too much, until we can catch the first hopeful glimpses of spring?
For those of you that haven’t heard of dopamine, a dose of it will not require a visit to any kind of special clinic. In fact a dose of dopamine is a great thing to have because dopamine is a highly beneficial neurotransmitter. A natural chemical released by the brain, it basically makes us feel really good. It used to be thought that it was produced when the brain registered receiving a reward- when we reached that goal, or got ‘that thing’ that we wanted. It turns out however that dopamine is released in anticipation of a reward. That’s not to say that you might not get even more if this super stuff if you did keep your promises to yourself, but dopamine is a reward we get for just looking forward in anticipation of something that we want for ourselves. You know how sometimes Christmas Day can be a little bit of an anti-climax? (Maybe I’m wrong and you all live Christmas day exactly like an M&S advert, and you now think that I am the actual Grinch who evidently steals her own Christmas) Half the fun, half the pleasure, was looking forward to it! See? Dopamine!
Anyway, maybe I sit here, alone in my pondering’s, and am doubly wrong; not only do you spend the whole of Christmas Day day in a frenzy of joy and constant goodwill, but you also stick to your resolutions, and I’m going to mutter under my breath when you post on Instagram in early February, or beyond, about how you’ve kept all the resolutions that you made (I would never really mutter… and of course I would really be happy for you!). Or, maybe, I’m just a little bit right …and we should just recognise the benefits of anticipation, of looking forward to something, and really enjoy the reward of dopamine that we get from these positive projections. So if like me you find that you’ve kind-of-forgotten all about that resolution you set, don’t be down on yourself, don’t give yourself a hard time about it! Setting your resolution served a purpose! Don’t lace your dopamine dose with negativity. Be kind to yourself and move on.
In answer to the question ‘are New Year’s resolutions effective? I think (as a result of my wondering combined with pondering) that yes they are. Just maybe not in the way that we might have intended. So do set resolutions! Do set goals and targets and imagine achieving them! Make things to look forward to (realistic things- we’d all love a world cruise in August but maybe a cuppa in a nice cafe at the weekend would do just as well in terms of boosting your posItive neurotransmitters!). Enjoy anticipating whatever you choose to anticipate, enjoy that lovely dose of dopamine.
If you would like to find out more about boosting your natural feel good neurotransmitters, or support in achieving your goals, please get in touch to find out how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy could help you! bryonywayhypnotherapy.co.uk 0734 2338284
Happy New Year!