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Why our New Year’s resolutions almost never work - and how to create sustainable change.

with Aimee Rai. Original interview printed in the Saturday Guardian Newspaper14th Jan 2023

Studies suggest that as many as 90% of us don’t succeed with our new year’s resolutions. We spoke with Aimee Rai, a trauma informed integrative therapist, about why it’s a notorious struggle to get them to stick. “New year is a great time to review what is and isn’t working in our lives, but it can be disheartening to make a commitment to ourselves and feel that we end up failing. Understanding why this happens can diffuse a lot of shame and frustration.”

Rai explains, “Most of us are functioning from stressed/dysregulated nervous system states. Signs of dysregulation are things like anxiety, worry, overthinking, difficulty focusing, emotional sensitivity, fatigue, and depression. When dysregulated, we have diminished executive brain and frontal lobe function. The frontal lobe is the area of the brain that provides us with perspective, ability to emotionally regulate, and respond rather than react. When our system is acutely stressed, we literally “lose our minds” – our capacity to think clearly and align our actions with our values and intentions.”

As we chat with Rai further, it becomes apparent why so many of us struggle to maintain these commitments for more than a few days or weeks. “It is very hard to introduce a new discipline from a stressed nervous system state, and most of the habits we hope to eliminate in the new year are driven by stress and emotional overwhelm. When we pick up the glass of wine or gorge the ice cream we said we wouldn’t, we are usually seeking relief and don’t have other tools to self soothe. When we pick up our phone even though we vowed to have less screen time, we are often agitated and seeking escape. When we commit to meditating but find that we just can’t bring ourselves to sit, we are stressed, and the nervous system is jittery. When we yell at our kids even though we dedicated ourselves to more gentle parenting this year, it’s because our nervous system is over stretched, and we have lost our ability to command how we communicate. When we take our coping mechanisms away or place pressure on ourselves to do something new, the stress levels only escalate - the relapse into the old behaviour, or the abandonment of the new one, becomes inevitable.”

Fascinating as all this is, we were beginning to feel a little bleak. With a smile, Rai was quick to reassure. “The solution is to stop focusing on our symptoms and start addressing the underlying state of our nervous system. When we do this, everything changes. As we learn to self regulate the system moves toward a more relaxed and stable state and we begin to feel more calm, energised, and able to navigate stressors and emotional currents. It also becomes a lot easier to integrate other activities that support our wellbeing. In the beginning we learn simple relaxation practices that take just a few minutes here and there. There’s no failing, no pressure, just a gradual journey towards another way of being”

Sign up to Aimee’s life changing online course today using coupon code FRESHSTART at checkout for 25% off - or join one of her groups before 31st January to receive it as complimentary gift. Learn more on the course page.

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