January 12th 2024 is not just any old Friday. January 12th 2024is ‘Quitters Day’. Yep, you’ve guessed it; it’s the day of the year when apparently, we are most likely to chuck out our New Year’s Resolutions and all the good intentions that went with them. The overindulgence of the festive season drives lots of us to make some rash decisions about what we ‘need’ to do to become the vastly-improved best version of ourselves that we just know we can be. After a large helping of self-flagellation, we announce our goals to our nearest and dearest and let them know we’ll soon be unrecognisable. Teetotal, sculpted and zen… with the resting heart-rate of an Olympic athlete.
So, why is it that just a couple of weeks later, as the second weekend of January looms, we are finding our new regime impossible to keep up with?
The answer is that most of us simply think too big when it comes to any of our goals, especially the ones we come up with at the start of a new year. That’s because our ‘New Year, New Me’ style goals usually involve avoidance (e.g. cutting out sugar, quitting fizzy drinks) rather than approach (e.g.Taking up a new hobby, seeing friends on a weekly basis). So,we are choosing goals which remove something from our lives rather than adding to them. In a study by Stockholm University in 2017, Professor Per Calbring tracked two groups. One had avoidance resolutions, the other had approach resolutions. He found participants in the study were a whopping 25% more likely to stick to approach-led resolutions.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate the term ‘quitter’. It implies failure, weakness, a lack of commitment and character. Since we can’t get rid of the word altogether, I reckon it’s time we reclaimed it and turned ‘Quitters Day’ into something positive.
If you are like many, contemplating abandoning your New Year’s resolutions, here are three reasons why quitting them may no bad thing…
1. January is the perfect time to slow down
There is so much pressure around the concept of a new year isn’t there? Every Instagram meme tells us it’s a fresh start, a blank page, a chance for a whole new fulfilling and exciting life. But the fact of the matter is, on January 2nd we will be living in the same surroundings, with the same people, doing the same job. So, it’s unrealistic to assume that we should feel vastly different in that first week of January. Life can be stressful and filled with anxiety, especially if you have increased financial pressures due to the Christmas overspend. Let’s not forget that ‘Blue Monday’, the day publicised as when we feel the lowest in mood, comes just days after ‘Quitters Day’. Perhaps to avoid that huge dip in mood mid January, we should focus on gently easing ourselves into the year rather than attacking it like it’s a battle to be won.
If you decide to quit your resolutions in an attempt to slow down, then well done you.
2. You’re more likely to stick to small incremental changes
If you’re really serious about making some changes to your lifestyle but haven’t been able to stick to your big New Year’s resolutions; I’ve got great news for you. All the evidence shows that small, specific incremental habit changes are a much more effective way to improve your health than some of the big dramatic ones. It makes sense doesn’t it? If your New Year’s resolution is to go vegetarian and you’ve always been a huge meat-eater, that might be really challenging to do overnight. But if you adopted the smaller, more achievable goal of only eating meat at weekends there’s a good chance you’ll adhere to that. Similarly a mammoth fitness challenge might feel really overwhelming (I once did a ‘Run every day in January’ challenge and I’ve never forgiven myself) but it’s maybe more doable and therefore more enjoyable committing to three 30 minute workouts a week (with the proviso you won’t beat yourself up if you only manage two). It’s important to remember that our daily habits are what make up our behaviour. A few smaller attainable healthy habits are so much better than one big goal which looms over us until we abandon it, inevitably feeling like a failure.
If you decide to quit your resolutions in favour of small habitual changes, well done you.
3. Quitting goals because they don’t fit your lifestyle is self-care
Life is ever-changing. We have to react and adapt to changing circumstances in order to survive. The goal which we set on the 30th December which seemed manageable, might turn out not to be once we’re back at work full-time, ferrying kids to schools and clubs. Slavishly sticking to a New Year’s resolution which is making us miserable or hungry or exhausted will not lead to us being that happy, zen, slim, teetotal person we had imagined we were going to become.
If you are a resolution Quitter today I want you to pat yourself on the back. You have not failed, you aren’t weak. You have performed an enormous act of self-care in realising thatparticular goal wasn’t the right one for you at this moment in time. Every single day is a fresh start, not just the 1st of January. So instead of beating yourself up, ask what you can do today for yourself, for your health, for your wellbeing.
If you decide to quit your resolutions because you want to be kind and caring to yourself; you’ve guessed it; well done you!