You can’t buy your way out of New Year’s resolutions
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, shopping is too often the solution
By now, you’ve had more than 16 days to implement your resolutions. How’s it going?
Just between you and me, you’ve probably sneaked a puff or two, am I right? Just one little piece of cheesecake, because it was a special occasion? Skipped the gym last week because things were just too cra-zy?
I don’t mean to taunt, but you’re not going to succeed, you know. You’re almost guaranteed to fail, in fact, so don’t even bother trying.
Eat, drink, smoke and sit your buttocks on the couch — because in about three more weeks, that resolution of yours will be nothing but a memory. Until next year, of course, when you make the same resolution again.
Statistics show that 25 per cent of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned by the end of the first week and, by the end of the sixth week, almost 100 per cent will be dropped completely.
Even sadder, 60 per cent of those will be picked up again next January 1st, and almost as many will be recycled over and over again for an entire decade.
Particular industries, especially fitness clubs and diet centres, would like us to consider the tradition of New Year’s resolving as inviolable as greeting cards, Valentines Day and Santa Clause, not to mention don’t-pay-a-cent sales, no-money-back policies and expiration dates on gift certificates. But is it really so sacred?
The Babylonians, credited with starting the custom of New Year’s resolutions 4,000 years ago, most commonly returned something borrowed from a friend to mark the coming of a new year.
The ancient Romans sought forgiveness from their enemies. The Chinese engaged in a thorough housecleaning.
Contemporary resolutions in the Western world tend to be geared towards reorganizing ourselves more dramatically, however, and are more Hollywood-inspired than Babylon-inspired.
We aim to do nothing less than transform our lives by transforming our bodies, our workplaces, our households and even our spirits.
And, in our almost-certain failure, we end up reinforcing a state of mind characterized more by our weaknesses than our strengths, our failures rather than our successes.
Psychologically, New Year’s resolutions the way they are most often carried out — rashly and extremely — are doomed failures.
“Tell me I can’t smoke,” our little brains plot under the pressure of deprivation, “and I’ll show you jonesing like you’ve never known!”
Humans don’t react well under torture. We don’t rise to the occasion and break fearlessly through unknown barriers. We don’t reach gladly for the celery stick instead of the drumstick.
No, we race to the nearest cigarette, booze bottle or bag of Cheetos to soothe our pain.
And if we’re bound and determined to stick it out, we are among the minority who have crossed the threshold of a new year with a well-conceived plan in tow.
Or else, we’re stubborn, which is just another way of saying ‘thick-in-the-head’ if you haven’t bothered to devise a strategy before attempting to transform your life.
Thick-headed resolutionists without plans of attack go for the quick-fixes — the diet pills, the hangover pills, the gum, the patch.
Women will invest in some slimming new clothes and a youthful hairdo, even a costlier line of cosmetics. Men will buy a big-screen TV and a new hockey stick.
Few people seem worried about the fact that following any given shop for a cure for the flaws that ail us we actually end up feeling better.
These folks may be suffering from oniomania — an addiction to shopping, or shopaholism, or binge shopping at the very least. But they are not condemned.
I don’t recall “reduce shopping” or “reduce euphoria associated with shopping” ever being popular New Year’s resolutions.
Nobody is asking us notice that our decision to wear the “patch” wasn’t what made us feel euphoric, but that it was the buying of the patch!
Some people’s New Year’s resolutions are about money — better budgeting; curbing the “latte factor.” But few of us realize we use shopping to fix our problems.
Whether it’s a new car or TV, new paint for the walls, a new sofa, some new jeans … We irrationally believe if it’s new, it will renew us.
The irony of shopaholism, like any “ism,” is it that it’s triggered and exacerbated by feelings of low self-esteem, the same feelings that the media and the fashion, diet, fitness, drug, self-help and other industries behind the media use to make us buy their products.
But I don’t want to be a downer.
Just head this warning: don’t think you can buy what you can only attain through hard work!
Here are some helpful tips from the experts to keep you on track.
If you are dieting, for example, you’ll have better luck if you don’t see the task as impossible. In other words, resolve to do something that’s within your power. If you can’t give up sweets than cut down, or give up something else.
You need a plan of attack and a self-monitoring process, something that allows you to measure your progress. In this case, a scale or measuring tape will do.
Finally, recruit cheerleaders for encouragement and constructive feedback. For weight loss, your cheerleaders should be people at the gym who also want to lose 20 or 30 pounds, not the friend who will be back in her size 0 bikini before Valentine’s Day.
Happy New Year!
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.