Monday 21 April 2014

The best resolution you can make is to give up painful January vows

Lorraine Courtney: 'New Year's Day starts off full of remorse'. Photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images.
Lorraine Courtney: 'New Year's Day starts off full of remorse'. Photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images.

Have you already made yours? Have you written down the list of your self-improvement attempts for 2014? Decided that you will live this year being fitter, thinner, nicer and more conscious of food miles?

Even if you haven't actually sat yourself down and put pen to paper, chances are that you've spent some time picking out something you enjoy doing and resolving to give it up in order to spend an extra decade of life slowly withering away.

Or you've decided that you don't really like yourself and you're going to try to become someone else entirely this year. "Make sure your goals are attainable," trill the experts. Yet we're all familiar with the thrill of sitting there, journal in hand, promising ourselves that this year, everything is going to be completely different.

The beginning of January does strange things to us all. Even the most cynical of us falls for the illusion of a brand new beginning. But, if the newspaper article about New Year resolutions has become a cliche, so is the one where a leading psychologist announces that we will have broken them all within weeks.

And so New Year's Day starts off full of remorse. You wake up bloated as a balloon, frazzled from in-law overload and boozy rows. You feel sharp pangs of guilt at your diminished bank balance and are still sweating gravy from your pores.

Your New Year resolutions are already in tatters. You think back over the previous year and ask yourself what it is you achieved, but quickly realise that the answer is an extra five pounds, physical decay and a creeping sense of underachievement in life. Plus you're back at work again.

You try to look forward to 2014 but a brand new year just inspires the same old resolutions: complain less, eat less, drink less. And let's face it, those resolutions are not even going to last the month. A survey carried out by Motivation Weight Management last year found that 69pc of Irish people make an average of two or more New Year's resolutions but two-thirds of the resolutions don't even make it through the first week.

Ireland's number one resolution was to lose weight (67pc want to), a further 52pc of us vowed we'll get more exercise and 45pc of us will try to eat more healthily.

We are of course tragic victims of our quick-fix culture. Every evening telly schedules are crammed with makeover shows and so it is little wonder that we imagine we're capable of dramatic transformations.

Night after night we watch how we can make ourselves look 10 years younger, transform into Michelin star-type chefs, lose a third of our body weight in a month and all those other aspirations on shows that profess to entertain by humiliating people about their talents or appearance.

I've made plenty of promises in the past, like: I will get a juicer if only to make my George Foreman grill look less lonely; I will stop using exclamation marks! I will stop pretending to be interested in the Kardashians in order to fit in at work; I will crush the patriarchy; I will learn to play chess; I will finally pass my driving test. But I'm not really into making resolutions anymore, mostly because I know I won't keep them. Forget the new me, the old me is fine.

This year I'm giving up pointless, painful January vows. Why begin the year on a downer? The late great Nora Ephron was really on to something when she said: "Incidentally, one of my most successful New Year's resolutions, which I made in 1990, was to eat more cheese. I recommend it highly as a resolution and as a way of life."

So stop beating yourself up because you're not everything you imagine you should be. But if you're still hankering after some kind of New Year resolution but thinking there's only so many times you can promise to stop smoking or having lewd thoughts about Pat Kenny, don't. Just resolve to laugh more, love more and live more.

Happy New Year.

Irish Independent

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