By Nisha Susan
All right, that first day of the year is over and your sense of noble enterprise is probably not fitting as tightly as it did yesterday. You can be resolved, but not so much like a character from Mahabharata as you were yesterday morning. If you find yourself at the end of the day having had only five glasses of water instead of the resolved eight, don’t be upset. You are not a bad person.
Why do we make resolutions, why are they hard to maintain and what can help us keep them? Here are 6 pieces of scientific findings about resolutions that intrigued us and who knows, may even help us keep to those #resolutions2018.
Women make more New Year resolutions than men do
A new study indicates that women are much more likely to make new self-improvement related resolutions than men. That is, women are more likely to resolve to eat healthier, exercise more and save money. Hmm, why do we think we need to be better?
It’s hard to keep a resolution if it isn’t SMART
Yes, acronyms are annoying but science indicates that to keep a resolution, you must make it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Framed. So if you resolve to read 10 novels by women writers in your mother tongue by June 30, you are more likely to stick to that plan rather than just telling yourself on January 1 that “I should read more”.
Make it tough, but not so tough on yourself
New behavioural science experiments show that you should set yourself hard challenges, but also plan to cut yourself some slack. So if you tell yourself that you want to practice the tabla seven days a week, but also that it’s okay if you miss a day or two every week, you are more likely to succeed. Otherwise the first day you oversleep and forget to practice you are likely to be so disappointed at breaking your streak you’ll give up altogether.
Make mornings work for you
Ever had the experience of being able to stick to a resolution – say, to be pleasant to your family – through the day and then lose it an hour before going to sleep? You were tired, you tell yourself. And you’re not wrong. But it isn’t necessarily a physical tiredness. Scientists are still drilling into the deep well of findings around decision fatigue. Did you know, for instance, that people spend between three and four hours a day fighting their desires? (Which sounds roughly like a Mahesh Bhatt movie, Some of the findings are confusing and suggest that a bit of glucose can boost your willpower, aka self-control, but what if your willpower has been spent all day in resisting sugar? There is one clear line of thinking – do stuff in the morning long before desire, the root of all suffering, slams you and makes you feel kya karu control hi nahi hota.
Tell someone about your resolution. Or maybe not
Telling a friend or colleague about your plan often works well, especially if you both have similar resolutions. If you have the kind of personality that author Gretchen Rubin calls an obliger, then you are particularly likely to get out of bed because your friend is waiting at yoga class for you. On the other hand, sometimes announcing your resolution totally backfires. You announce on Facebook that you will not be buying any clothes this year. Everyone congratulates you. Two weeks down the line, you buy clothes and think nothing of it because you’ve already got all the good-girl pats and hugs. Amazingly, there is even research to show that if you announce your big plan and people ignore you, you are more likely to succeed. Science meanly calls this social reality. So keep it quiet, perhaps?
Don’t make your future self Seeta to your current self’s Geeta
You know what your future self looks like. Science certainly knows what you think she will look like. She eats well, doesn’t spend too much time on her phone, is kind to her mother and watches documentaries about conflict zones. But when the future rolls around, you are shocked to realise that there is no improvement. An excessive faith that your future self is a big reason why you can’t stick to your plans. But what if you really, truly understood that your self in the future, aka tomorrow morning, is just as likely to goof or do well as your present self? So go for a walk today, reply to that email today and go to sleep early today. Your future self will thank you.