In 2022 almost 40% of people made New Year’s Resolutions. Those are the numbers that Statista’s Global Consumer Survey reported, with health being one of the top priorities for people.
Most people wanted to lose weight and exercise more - no surprise there! So why on earth are we suggesting that you skip all that "New Year, New You!" nonsense - especially if it is focused around health?
Can You Keep A.... Resolution?
It seems as if the other 60% of people all know some sort of secret - that New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time. Research shows that less than half of those who end up making these resolutions actually keep them past the 6 month mark, with a mere 8% of people managing to keep them for a whole year.
While that's impressive and good news for the 40%, those numbers translate into a mere 20% for the 6 month goal achievers and then less than 3% of people who can actually stick to a resolution for a full 12 months.
That means that about 97% of us can’t seem to stick to a resolution to get healthier at this time of the year. And that makes total sense!
It's Too Hectic To Try New Healthy Habits
Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years. So many different holidays that involve expenses, time off work, travel (cue Southwest post-Christmas travel cancellation chaos!), family, gifts.
There are a million things on our minds and we simply don’t have the mental energy to start the year off with such bold expectations for ourselves. (Go you 3 percenters!)
The beginning of the year is a terrible time to try something new. People are maxed out and often just don’t have much willpower left in them to make the effort-driven decisions needed to change habits.
The Power Of Habits
According to the psychology-based app, Noom, the average person makes around 122 informed choices every day and this takes up our mental and emotional energy. When we don’t have the energy to make these decisions we resort to acting out of habits - old ones - not new ones.
Honestly this isn’t a terrible thing and it certainly isn’t surprising. After the holidays we are often more exhausted from all of the decisions we have had to make than any other time of the year. We think we are feeling ready to start afresh, but really we haven’t given our bodies (or minds) the proper amount of time to refresh and recharge.
Our willpower wells have run dry so we act out our regular habits in response to our daily contextual clues. Sometimes we turn to bad habits (like stress eating) and other times we are able to fall back into our usual routines of home made dinners and daily walks.
The Science Behind Habit Psychology
According to information from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, many of the actions that we engage in every day (like shopping or exercising) are habit-driven, making them difficult to change.
Dr Wendy Wood, PhD, is a psychologist at the University of Southern California and she also happens to be fascinated by the science behind habits. “I became fascinated by why changing attitudes doesn’t always lead to a change in behavior,” says Dr Wood. “One answer is habits - how they keep us persisting in old actions - and how people underestimate the role of habits in their daily lives.”
Why Are New Year’s Resolutions Bad For Back Pain?
Resolutions are final and definite decisions to do something - usually health-related - differently. Unfortunately resolutions are often based on negative emotions, instead of positive and motivating emotions.
We focus on things we don’t like about ourselves. The fact that we aren’t healthy enough. Fit enough. Thin enough. Muscular enough. We focus on the fact that we are simply, generally not enough.
These negative emotions may motivate us in the beginning, but over time they can actually create anxiety and lead to us feeling worse about ourselves. This is not motivating at all.
Resolutions Aren't Set Up For Success
That is why resolutions aren’t helpful for working on health issues like low back pain. Resolutions seldom lead to the sustainable changes that are needed to help resolve problems like chronic back pain and inflammation. Resolutions simply aren’t constructed in a way that can effectively harness your motivation and turn it into action.
So How Can You Resolve Your Low Back Pain?
Well, even though we know that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work, it doesn’t mean we can’t change unhealthy habits. Here are some effective ways to change unhealthy habits and get your back pain under control for a New You that works with YOUR schedule.
How To (Successfully) Form Healthy Habits:
Rest. Wait until you are fully rested after the holidays before trying to make any major habit changes. Rest helps us to be more alert, make better decisions, focus our attention, and help with motivation. When we are properly rested then we have the mental and emotional capacity to make the good decisions needed to change unhealthy habits.
2. Habit stack. Habit stacking is a technique that links a new healthy habit to an existing habit. Think, doing stretches right after you brush your teeth before bed, or walking the dog while you drink your morning coffee. When we connect a new habit to an existing habit it is easier to remember to do the new habit since it is already incorporated into our daily routine.
3. Keep it simple. Don’t try to change everything in your life all at once. Start small and build gradually. Instead of giving up pizza as well as your evening Netflix marathon perhaps try making a home made pizza with a few veggie toppings and maybe setting a timer to make sure you go to bed in time for that ever-important beauty sleep.
4. Be consistent. Research participants who tried habit stacking of one particular healthy habit found that missing the occasional opportunity to perform the habit did not seriously impair the habit formation process but consistency was important.
There is a saying that goes, “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.’ Making small changes to your health routine has been shown to add up to significant benefits for low back pain sufferers.
While we don’t think that you should be limited by a set time of the year, like New Year’s, there has never been a better time to make a small change to your lifestyle. Or maybe there has. Maybe today just isn’t your day, and that’s ok. We will still be here next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. If you need help with low back pain rehabilitation, we are here to support you, any day, any time.