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January, Janus & New Year Resolutions

Do your new year resolutions survive beyond the first week of January? Don't give up, perseverance is the answer.   2013-01-07
So how did the idea of New Year resolutions start? In ancient Roman legend, the god Janus, Guardian of Exits and Entrances, was believed to represent transitions and beginnings, he was always represented with two faces, one on the back of the head to see back into the past and one on the front to look into the future. The practice of making new year resolutions is said to have began during this period.

Janus has long since disappeared into the mists of history but the idea of making new year resolutions lives on.

We believe in ourselves

New year resolutions don’t usually survive the first few days of the year so why do we bother to make them at all? One reason is the desire to better ourselves and to improve our lives. As human beings the need to improve is a natural part of our psychology and the new year being a beginning, provides us with the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and make a new start. Unfortunately, our good intentions don’t last very long and the force of habit quickly takes over. So does this make new year resolutions an irrelevance? Experts say that not only is this not the case, we should actually go ahead and make new year resolutions even if we know that we will be unable to persevere with them. New year resolutions show that we believe in ourselves and in our ability to change and to become whom we really would like to be. Psychologists believe that this desire to improve aspects of our life is always positive, even if we don’t follow through.

How to make new year resolutions work

But what if we would like to follow through how can we make our resolutions work? Beginnings are always difficult but perseverance is the key to success. Sydney University psychologist, Professor Thiagarajan Sitharthan, who is a specialist in addictions is quoted in the Australian Newspaper Sydney Morning Herald as saying that resolutions fail, "we know they fail, but they fail because [people] make one blip and give up. They say 'I tried, but it failed so what's the point of trying?” Professor Sitharthan advises us to "include slip-ups as part of your resolution. They're not the end of the world. You just carry on with your journey". He compares the self improvement process to learning to ride a bicycle. When you first get on the bike, you’ll fall off, so you need training wheels. Changing aspects of your life requires you to acquire new skills. It isn't easy but with perseverance, it can be done.


Exactly one year ago MyHealthPortal brought its readers and subscribers 10 resolutions that are guaranteed to enhance their health and wellbeing:

  1. Swap processed food for natural alternatives and eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  2. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily, to flush out any toxins in the body.
  3. Soak in Vitamin D.
  4. Begin to believe in yourself, and your own capacity to be resilient, thereby enhancing your ability to function.
  5. Try to sleep 6-10 hours per night.
  6. Sugar increases unwanted calories and has no dietary worth. Regulate your sugar intake.
  7. Make 2013 the year when you make a concerted effort to keep within the guidelines for alcohol consumption.
  8. Smoking kills, give it up.
  9. Do exercise.
  10. Positive results WILL OCCUR with determination and resolve.

It is evident that anyone attempting to take on the entire list of resolutions would be bound to failure. So how can you make your resolutions stick?

  • Be realistic – don’t expect that come 1 January you’ll suddenly be able to make a complete transformation of yourself because clearly it won’t happen. Habit is a hard nut to crack but the secret is to have realistic expectations.
  • Temptation – avoid temptation as far as possible.
  • Announce - Psychologists believe that by ‘announcing’ to our family and friends what our resolution is, we will stick by it because psychologically we will want to appear consistent.
  • Perseverance – learning to ride a bicycle isn’t easy; you’ll keep falling off until you learn how to keep your balance. Changing habits is not easy either. You’ll keep ‘falling off’ again and again, and when you think you’ve finally mastered it, you’ll fall off again. Just don’t give up.
  • Do something positive - Take practical steps to help you succeed. If your aim is to lose weight for example or to lead a healthier lifestyle, join a gym, the physical exertion will release endorphin hormones which will enhance your mood and make you a happier person. The feel good result will act as a catalyst encouraging you to continue investing in your physical activities. If your aim is to stop smoking, try substituting regular cigarettes with the electronic version. Acting out on your resolve and seeing results will encourage you to persevere in your endeavours.


So how do we make new year resolutions work? Just persevere but whether or not you succeed all that remains is to wish you a healthy 2013.