It’s past the most wonderful time of the year. We’ve now moved on to the most depressing time of the year. It’s around this time that most people will have given up on most (if not all) of their New Year’s resolutions.
That, combined with the euphoria of Christmas being replaced by the dread of debt and the return to work, it’s no wonder that this time of year is just downright miserable. The most depressing day of the year this year is actually the 15th of January this year.
They have a name for it and everything.
Blue Monday. Wikipedia it.
It’s not hard to see why this day is so depressing: in the lead up to Christmas, anything and everything are possible. There’s magic in the air. Even if sometimes the magic is a half-drunk in-law who messed up an egg magic trick and just threw a raw egg on the ground before promising to clean it up and leaving the kitchen never to be seen again.
Family comes from all over to spend time together. Even dysfunction, casually racist family members, or a windstorm taking away power so Christmas dinner becomes peanut butter and jam sandwiches or a turkey cooked on a BBQ just can’t take away from the happiness of the holidays.
It’s in that spirit of magic that we make plans for the upcoming year. Anything is possible. So we promise ourselves the world:
Lose weight? Consider this selfie the before picture.
Exercise more? Got a gym membership already.
Eat better? Chocolate doesn’t exist anymore.
Drink less? Well… let’s not get carried away.
Almost immediately after promising ourselves the world we start shooting ourselves in the foot.
The thing about human brains is that they’re good at surviving in the moment. Historically that’s been pretty useful so we keep it around. And it’s not that humans are conceptually incapable of understanding long-term goals, the planning and the daily action required to get there. It’s just that humans are really bad at doing what’s needed to be done to get there.
Like, if exercising more, eating better, or whatever your resolution is, is so important, why aren’t you doing it right now?
There are some theories like the fact that adding something to your day is actually subtracting what you already do that’s less of a priority instead of adding something new, which makes sense: the day has 24 hours. Since we can’t add hours to the clock, to add a resolution we need to take away something we’re already doing. It’s just basic math… or physics… maybe… I don’t know, I’m a writer.
Assuming the resolution is successfully crammed into your new, freshly revised schedule, how can we be sure we’ll stick to the plan?
That’s actually pretty easy to figure out. Are you going to start right now or wait for some arbitrary day in the future?
If it’s the former, it will probably stick. If it’s the latter it probably won’t.
If something isn’t worth starting today, it’s not important. If it’s not important, why would anyone stick with it?
Resolutions, 30 day cleanses, starting on a Monday. They’re all gimmicks.
Sure we all know someone who did one of these and it worked out well. And good for them… I guess. But for the vast majority of people, the gimmick of the starting line isn’t enough for long-term change. The day to day of what we’re doing right now outweighs the future. In reality, it sounds more like this:
Exercise more? Lifting is strange and scary, how about just a walk every day. Except maybe just like three times a week because winter is cold.
Eat better? Valentine’s Day chocolates are just around the corner. And I don’t want to let a new diet get in the way of enjoying delicious treats with friends and family.
Drink less? Well, on cold snowstorm mornings there’s the traditional booze with coffee, and the back to school parties, and then a lot of friends have birthdays in January and February, so maybe after the semester is done.
It’s not just about the math (or physics) of adding something to a schedule. These daily changes are to become daily routines. They’ll change who we are into something new and scary. The problems we have, the problems we want to change, they are familiar.
If something isn’t bad enough to change the daily routine right away, it’s probably not a change that will stick.
The point of this whole thing isn’t to convince people not to make a change. Just to understand how to do it in a way that brings joy, instead of bringing Blue Monday.
If there’s a change to be made to life, do it right now. Take a quick Google field trip to figure out the nuts and bolts of a 5-3-1 lifting routine, healthy meal planning or what to do at parties without drinking. Then start living life like that. Power through that awkward stage where old habits hit new routines. After a month or so figure out if the changes were worth it, or what changes still need to be made.
Don’t wait for New Year’s Day, Monday, or some other arbitrary starting line. Starting lines mean that there’s finish line. But there isn’t. The changes we all resolve to make are changes we have to make day in and day out – forever.
If you’re not ready to make these changes that’s okay.
Don’t put pressure on yourself and set yourself up to fail a resolution and be bummed about the lack of commitment. You can’t fail a resolution if you don’t make a resolution. By not failing a New Year’s resolution, there’s no added depression contributing to Blue Monday.
Which means that there’s only the depression of the soul-crushing return of responsibilities to do well in school because otherwise it’s a waste of tens of thousands of dollars and your entire future.
Blue Monday indeed.