Saturday 7 December 2019

So, have you broken all your New Year's resolutions yet?

Pointless: Christmas splurges are usually followed by gym memberships which are then only used for a few weeks before we fall back into old habits
Pointless: Christmas splurges are usually followed by gym memberships which are then only used for a few weeks before we fall back into old habits
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Okay, let's do a quick check list to see where we stand, shall we?

Christmas tree stripped and disposed of? Check. Decorations put back in that box in the attic? Check. All the mountains of wasteful wrapping paper finally discarded? Check. That horrible, sinking feeling when you made the mistake of checking your account to see how much damage you've done to your finances? Oh, check, check and check again.

That feeling of rage and regret when you realise you blew half your salary on a present for that special someone who has been secretly shagging your best mate behind your back for most of year? Che... actually, that one may be a bit too specific for some.

What goes up must come down and January tends to be the month when we're all down - way down.

Even if you don't like the Christmas period, and there are plenty who don't, you can't escape it.

No matter how blithe and indifferent you may be to the carnage around you, the only way to avoid seasonal stress is to stay in a remote cave from the end of October and, since that isn't particularly practical, even the bah-humbug merchants will find the whole rigmarole taking its toll.

So, even if you didn't enjoy it, you still get the hangover - either metaphorically or, more likely, all too literally.

And with that inevitable and vital reset of your body back into normal rhythms - for instance, I know today is Saturday, but two weeks ago I would have had to check to see what actual day it was - comes the crash.

Emotionally, physically and financially, most people tend to turn into a new year feeling pretty wrecked and spent.

Even more importantly, don't forget the self-flagellation and guilt.

Is it possible for one human to drink a bottle of Baileys in one sitting, particularly when they don't even like Baileys, because it tastes like cat sick mixed with sugar?

How the hell did you manage to eat three boxes of Roses?

So, as we look back with a sense of vaguely appalled fascination at the level of wasteful consumption one person can reach if they really, really put their mind to it, we remember that we are human and, like all humans, we feel the need to make restitution - to ourselves.

Which is where the New Year's resolutions come in.

I'm pretty sure, at this stage, that if you put the phrase 'New Year's...' into a phrase it will be about something that none of us like.

I have honestly, sincerely, genuinely never met anyone who likes New Year's Eve, for example. That's why the awful Jools Holland Hootenanny picks up such great figures every New Year's Eve - most people over the age of 25 would prefer to stay in and watch some superannuated musos they vaguely recognise.

And it's the same with New Year's resolutions.

Nobody wakes up on January 1 and skips out of bed with a smile on their face singing 'Hello 2018, we're going to be great friends and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you!'

Instead, we greet the new day fretfully, still feeling 'The Fear' that follows the excess and so, in an effort to make peace with the universe and ourselves, we decide to make some resolutions - the more outlandish the better, although they usually stay predictable and banal.

So, you put on a load of weight over the last month? To the gym with you!

Thing is, though, there's a reason why so many gyms do special introductory offers in January - because, like all smart businesses, they know they will get a glut of customers for the next few weeks that they will never see again, so why not charge them for six months, knowing you will only see them for the first few weeks?

Be honest, if you really wanted to go the gym, you'd already be a member and you'd go there because you enjoyed it, not because you felt you had to purge yourself of your slothful excesses.

Or how about knocking the gargle on the head? Well, if you really wanted to do that, you don't need an arbitrary date to make that choice, you can do it at any time of the year - if you want.

For example, I knocked booze on the head for 12 months a couple of years ago (the longest decade of my life, etc, etc) on a whim, because it suited me. More importantly, because I wanted to.

Feeling pressured into making a decision like that, even if the pressure is only coming from yourself, is never a sound basis for a rational decision.

But we are not rational people, not really. Sure, we might like to think that we're far more sophisticated than ever before but we still have the same doubts, insecurities and superstitions as ever.

Whether it be inherited Catholic guilt or a more universal human impulse to pay for our good time with anxiety, we drive ourselves into a tizzy of self recrimination and bogus self-improvement - and it's all completely bloody pointless.

What's worse, we know it's pointless, yet every year half the population sets themselves up to fail by placing unrealistic demands on themselves.

Stuff the resolutions. Life is short and winter is long - so just enjoy yourself and avoid the pain of making promises to yourself that you know you can't keep.

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