Why The January Blahs?

The term “Anti-Resolution” counters the usual pressure to make New Year’s Resolutions that hardly anyone keeps, especially during The January Blahs. It has been found that 92% of resolutions fail80% of them fail by mid-February, and 64% of us make the same resolutions over and over again every year. Same 5 lbs. every year or whatever it may be for you.

Seems so silly. Why would we do that? One of the reasons from an earlier post is that New Year’s Resolutions are a tradition that dates back at least 4000 years.

Promises to the Gods. Humans have been making resolutions, or promises to the gods, at least as far back as 4000 years ago in ancient Babylonia. The promises then were about being better people to others, so the pagan gods would not punish us by wrecking our crops.

The difference now is that the promises are more likely to ourselves, for ourselves, about ourselves, and we can easily let ourselves off the hook in a way that earlier humans were not convinced the gods would. And just in case the gods are still looking, at least we made the promise, didn’t we? Come on, at least we tried.

But January can be a terrible time to take on the stress of major change if our energy is already low from The January Blahs.

According to a YouGov survey, January is the most disliked of all months. The “Monday of Months…The end of fun, joy, tranquility and dreams. The return of the reality. The same is with January,” how one woman framed it.

And another put it this way: 

January seems to take the cake for being the most depressing. Post-holiday letdown turns into failed New Year’s resolutions, which are exacerbated by short days, long nights, bad weather, and holiday credit card bills. This kind of low-level winter depression seems to be a seasonal fact of life. “It’s very common for people to get down during long winter months,” says Dawn LaFrance, PsyD, associate director of the Counseling Center at Colgate University in upstate New York.

In the simplest terms, January is not December. Life is different. Things have changed. Change demands adjustment. Adjustment to change of any kind is stressful. So really, who needs more?

This is where anti-resolutions come in.

What is an “Anti-Resolution”?

Some use the term to refer to goals we will eliminate instead of pursue. Others use it to mean setting goals that are less grand than the typical New Year’s Resolution variety. And some consider using a word-of-the-year instead of a specific goal as an anti-resolution too.

But this way of thinking about anti-resolutions, from ArtsHub’s National Visual Arts Editor, Gina Fairley, is my hands down favorite:

…the idea of the anti-resolution: an acknowledgment of what we do well already and just sharpening it up for success, rather than a kind of hoop-jumping aspiration set up to fail.

Strengths-based. Of course! What we focus on is what we become. If we focus on our defects, we believe we are defective. Or as others have said:

“You become what you give your attention to. If you don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will.” – Epictetus

“What you focus on grows. What you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” – Robin Sharma

“Your life is controlled by what you focus on.” – Tony Robbins

I highlighted this idea with my clients this week and watched everyone’s energy lift like magic. The mere thought that there is nothing to fix right now, that all they have to do right now is more of what they are good at, more of what they love, and see what happens. Judging by their sighs of relief, it certainly seems worth a try.

But New Year’s Resolution making is a very old habit, and old habits die hard.

How New Habits Get Made

Habits, or behaviors that have become automatic, keep us from wasting energy figuring things out that we already learned, like riding a bike.

But let’s say you want to switch from a defect-based approach to a more strength-based way of living and growing, do bear in mind that this may not happen overnight. It can begin overnight but takes time to lock into your basal ganglia, where it takes on that easy automatic life of its own that you don’t even have to think about.

In the 1060s we heard that it takes 21 days to make a new habit, but more recent studies have pegged it between 18 and 254 days (average of 66 days), depending on motives, resources, self-regulation, and environmental, social, and biological influences.

Consistency is key. How long it will take is anyone’s guess, but you will know you are getting there when it takes less effort to think, feel, and do differently and better—and you feel uncomfortable if you don’t.

Repetition is what builds the neural connections deeply in your brain that make it easier and more automatic for you to live your best life.

Practice, practice, practice…see what happens and let us know.



Photo by FreePik

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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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