Last week we experienced what is known as “Blue Monday,” (very unscientifically) proven to be the most depressing day of the year. Whether this is actual fact or a made-up topic for a catchy media post, let’s take a closer look at why this day is so dreary and dismal.
The following factors work against us during the third week in January: credit card bills from Christmas are due, the weather outside is still frightful with not much else feeling delightful, he holidays are over, the excitement of a new year and new you are fading, and the resolutions are – for the most part – failing.
In our culture, January 1st has become a standout benchmark for beginning new goals, big changes, and ground-breaking transformations. This can be confirmed by following Google search trends. Below you can see how often people searched “best diet” over the last 5 years. See the 5 tallest peaks in the trend? Those are December 26-January 5th each year. These trends also reflect our steady decline in interest throughout the year, especially throughout the holidays.
Again confirming the frenzy for fitness and health in the new year, here is the trend for the Google search, “gym near me:”
The same 5 peaks can be spotted as we cram to find the membership to buy to meet our January 1st resolutions.
So what is to be done about New Years Resolutions? If that many people actually recklessly abandon them within the first month, is goal setting even worth it?
The short answer is… absolutely.
The long answer is… maybe we need a shift of mindset. Maybe we need to realize that our resolve to improve doesn’t have to correlate to the calendar. Imagine a world where health-related Google search trends were a straight line from January to December. Does it seem random to think of signing up for a gym April 5th instead of January 1st? If so, consider why you have that belief, and challenge it. Although Blue Monday is the supposed most depressing day of the year, in reality it holds just as much potential for us to set and achieve goals as the other 364 days a year.
In addition to the chronological date of resolutions, the type of goals or the degree of change we’re trying to make may be setting us up for failure. As a dietitian, I talk with a lot of people about behavior change. My favorite philosophy is that small, ongoing changes reap big improvements over time. Instead of radical change, quitting something cold turkey, and the “all or nothing” mentality, consider the small stuff which can have a big impact. For example, if the end goal is to run a marathon, make a goal this week to jog or walk around the neighborhood for 5 minutes. If this goal seems too small, too insignificant, or too easy, that’s okay! Once you have completely adopted the “too easy” goal, then another goal will be set. Until then, get to work on that 5-minute walk.
Make the barrier of entry into the new change so small it’s hard to fail.
The same principle can be applied to work, money, or other related goals. Although ambitious goals should be set, the surest way to arrive at those goals is to examine the small, everyday decisions and actions we take throughout our day.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and caught in a frenzy of resolutions and goals, ask yourself, “What can I do tomorrow to work toward my goal?” When in doubt, take it day by day.
The bottom line: take it day by day, but it doesn’t matter what day it is. Whether it is January 1st, April 16th, or November 4th, each and every day is an opportunity to recommit to our goals.
If you are interested in a health-related goal setting with a Harmons dietitian, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org