Emily Chang/ West Ranch High School Grade 10
On December 31st of almost every year, I make a promise to myself. I tell myself that in the new year, I will completely cut out processed foods and start eating healthier. However, the morning of January 1st rolls around and I can’t help but give into the urge of eating a poptart instead of a bowl of fruit.
Reaching for the poptart is a habit, something that I automatically do without much thought. Grabbing the fruit instead would require hard, conscious thinking, which is why I fail to do so essentially every year, and I’m not the only one. In fact, around 80% of people fail to maintain their resolutions for more than 6 weeks, and almost 55% of these resolutions are health-related, according to Business Insider.
Why is it that a vast majority of those making new year’s resolutions fail to maintain them? An important contributor to this is the fact that often times, people get overwhelmed by the gravity of their resolution. Just the thought of going to the gym every single night is enough to discourage people from actually going out and doing it. One day of failing to meet their goal makes the overall resolution seem unattainable, leaving people discouraged and ready to give up. People also fail to keep up with their resolutions because they don’t see immediate reward from their actions. If the end goal is losing weight, the journey it takes to get there is often unpleasant. There is very little immediate satisfaction, and seeing little progress usually deters people from continuing with the routine.
Finally, new year’s resolutions are often implemented in place of bad habits, which usually sets them up for failure since bad habits are extremely difficult to break.
Habits are essentially our brain’s version of autopilot, coming in handy when we are in a rush and have to complete tasks with very little thought. Bad habits, though, are often a result of trigger-and-reward habit loop that hinders our brains in making decisions. The loop starts with a cue that sets us off on the routine of the bad habit itself and end with a “reward” from the completion the bad habit. This cycle is easy to get trapped in, and is typically the reason why the new year’s resolutions people make fail.
However, although difficult, it is possible to break bad habits. The first and most important step is simply recognizing when you have a bad habit, something made possible through maintaining a habit tracking journal. After recognizing the habit, the next step to take is to experiment with alternate activities that could take the place of your habitual routine, such as making a smoothie for breakfast instead of eating a poptart. Once you have found a suitable replacement, begin implementation through various reminders or a buddy system. Accountability is an incredibly effective way to break a habit.
Although it might seem futile to many people, new year’s resolutions are great for getting motivated and setting goals. Even though resolutions often fall through, learning about the root of why most resolutions don’t stick is the first step towards preparing for a successful new year.
<Emily Chang/ West Ranch High School Grade 10