Scrap­ping New Year’s res­o­lu­tions could leave you hap­pier and health­ier


think the week is shot any­way (so I will not go at all this week and I re­solve to make a fresh start on Sun­day).”

The ‘what the hell ef­fect’ is strong­est when we make res­o­lu­tions, which are a tall or­der, Pro­fes­sor Pil­lutla warns. Th­ese res­o­lu­tions are the most dan­ger­ous for three rea­sons. First, we are more likely to over-in­dulge as we in­evitably over-step, over-am­bi­tious, self-set lim­its. Sec­ond, we are likely to take longer to get back on the wagon, wait­ing un­til next week or next month. Third, we are far more likely to give up en­tirely, be­cause we con­sider it a fail­ure if we have not stuck to th­ese strict lim­its from day one. We quickly con­clude that the whole year is shot!

“Com­pare this to a per­son who has no such res­o­lu­tions”, says Pro­fes­sor Pil­lutla.

“Not hav­ing been to the gym by the mid­dle of the week might act as a strong mo­ti­va­tor to go now. Iron­i­cally, the New Year res­o­lu­tion of go­ing to the gym five times a week leads to worse out­comes than if we had never made the res­o­lu­tion in the first place.”

In spite of the high fail­ure rate, a sur­pris­ing 60% of us will make ex­actly the same res­o­lu­tion this new year, when the vast ma­jor­ity of us will fail again.

“We are gen­er­ally overly op­ti­mistic about our abil­ity to meet goals, and also do not learn from past fail­ures. This means that we are more likely to make grand, rather than re­al­is­tic res­o­lu­tions”,

says. If you want to make and keep a res­o­lu­tion, Pro­fes­sor Pil­lutla urges you to ex­am­ine your fail­ures for sit­u­a­tional and per­son­al­ity bar­ri­ers, set re­al­is­tic goals and make res­o­lu­tions that are not dif­fi­cult to keep on a day to day ba­sis.

“But”, he says, “Be­ware the delu­sion­ary prom­ise of the ‘fresh start’. Re­mem­ber that not mak­ing a res­o­lu­tion might lead to a health­ier and hap­pier life than mak­ing one that can lead to the ‘what the hell ef­fect’.”

Pro­fes­sor Pil­lutla

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