When the holiday is over, the presents have been put away, and the leftover roast has been made into soup, there’s a part of me that just wants to savor it all. To snuggle up on the couch with the kids in my new pjs, nibbling from the tin of stale Christmas cookies, basking in the glow of the dying Christmas tree, watching movie marathons until my eyeballs bleed.
These days, there’s so much hustle and bustle associated with the holidays, it’s nice to linger a while. Let it all sink in. Take a moment to stop and appreciate the richness of our military life, our families, and our traditions, before another hectic year is in full swing.
However, there’s another part of me that gets antsy. Like the plaque accumulating in my arteries from too much cheese dip, or the needles piling up under the tree, or the mounting credit card bills — the holiday builds. By midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’m ready to purge.
It’s all I can do to make it through the obligatory pork-and-sour-kraut on New Year’s Day, before I want to rid the entire house of holiday décor and begin my new and improved lifestyle. Something takes over in me, and after weeks of excess and sloth, I’m hell bent on eating enough fiber, taking 10,000 steps a day, keeping accurate financial records, compulsively vacuuming, and fundamentally changing my entire personality.
Inevitably, about a month or two into it, my bad habits creep back in. I convince myself that kung pao chicken is healthy because of the green peppers. I stop using my check register, and let receipts rattle around in the bottom of my purse. An ordinary hangnail is the only excuse I need to skip my new gym routine.
These small setbacks send me into tailspin of guilt, and before I know it, I’m on the couch in the middle of the afternoon watching reality show reruns in order to avoid my responsibilities, with my lips wrapped around a can of Pringles.
Sometimes, I make a little progress, and sometimes, I fail completely. So why bother making New Year’s resolutions at all?
About 45% of Americans regularly make New Year’s resolutions with some kind of cathartic change in mind. Lose ten pounds. Get organized. Quit smoking. Save money. Reduce debt. Get a new job. Stop procrastinating. Spend less time on electronic devices. New Year’s Resolutions are supposed to make our lives better. But do they?
Some psychologists believe that New Year’s Resolutions make us unhappy because they set us up for certain failure. According to a 2014 University of Scranton study, only 8 percent of Americans who make resolutions are successful in meeting their goals after one year.
Of the top five resolutions made by Americans in recent years, weight control and exercise were the easiest for resolvers to maintain. However, promises to improve finances were less successful. This is particularly relevant in 2017, when according to Nasdaq.com, “save more/spend less” is the most popular New Year’s resolution for all age groups.
However, research shows that people actually have more self-control than they might think. According to a 2015 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who think they have limited self-control “will reduce their effort and engage in various overindulgent behaviors when they face high demands …” Conversely, those who believed they had abundant willpower, performed better on difficult tasks.
The good news is that 46% of those who made resolutions reported having kept their goals past six months. Not too shabby. Most encouragingly, the statistics show that people who make New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than people who don’t make resolutions at all.
So, even if science indicates that I’ll still be disorganized, procrastinating, and chomping a King-sized Snickers Bar come mid-February, I’m still giving my New Year’s resolutions a try.
Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Sure, I might screw it up again, but I’ll never find out if I can be a better person in 2017, unless I give it my best shot.