- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year’s resolutions have become the impossible dream — and it’s all our fault.

If 100 well-intentioned people stop their revelries for a few seconds tonight and vow to stop smoking, lose weight or save money in 2008, only 12 of them will succeed.

That’s the dismal record these days, according to Richard Wiseman, a psychologist with Britain’s University of Hertfordshire who tracked the resolution-making instincts of 1,800 Britons and 1,200 Americans over the past year. Indeed, almost all of us abandon our virtuous pledges, he found.

And sex plays a role. Men and women fail for entirely different reasons.

“Men may be more likely to adopt a macho attitude and have unrealistic expectations,” Mr. Wiseman said.

Those proverbial he-men need to address their resolutions in a more sporting fashion, he counseled, treating those vows as a goal to be won, with benefits. It’s not just losing the pounds. Slimming down also is an act of becoming “more attractive to women,” he said.

Women, meanwhile, get hush-hush at resolution time, Mr. Wiseman said.

“Women might be reluctant to tell others about their resolutions. They benefit more from social support provided by friends and family once they have made their goals public,” he noted.

Mr. Wiseman identified 18 common resolutions which invariably crop up — from drinking less to traveling more, getting a hobby and getting in shape. The single resolution that has the best chance of success, the survey found, is the somewhat ambiguous “enjoy life more.”

Other research has less damning findings: 66 percent rather than 88 percent of our resolutions fail, according to New York-based Healthy Monday, a public health initiative organized by Columbia University, Syracuse University and Johns Hopkins University. The basic tenet is to persuade citizens to devote the first day of the week to better health habits.

“The idea is to use Mondays to cut down on calories, drink less, quit smoking, get off the couch and do all the other things all of us know we should — but always find excuses not to do,” said spokesman Sid Lerner.

He proposed that America’s resolution-makers write down their vows and review them every Monday morning throughout the year.

“Monday becomes the ‘New Years’ of each week, a fresh start to a better and healthier life style,” Mr. Lerner noted.

Dr. Jill Rachbeisel, a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, advised people to simply “focus on realistic goals with measurable results.” Small is good.

Don’t focus on losing 50 pounds, try 5 pounds instead, she said.

And don’t wait for elusive motivation, counseled Dr. Hinda Dubin, another psychiatrist at the campus.

“Once you initiate an action — the smallest of actions — you pick up momentum and realize: ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad,’ and it will be a lot easier,” she added.



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