Every year as early as November, people across the world boast about how this upcoming year will be different from the last. This year is the year to finally quit that job, write that novel, get into shape, learn a new language—we’ve heard it all (or seen it plastered across social media).
The new year brings motivation to make goals and try something new—or at the very least, accomplish something we always said we would. This coming year will be the year we do it all. This time around, we feel a surge of motivation we know will carry us to the finish line. We look forward to the clock striking midnight on December 31 so we can finally get into that mantra we’ve been spouting for the past month: new year, new me.
And then the post-holiday slump hits. Why? Look no further than your brain chemistry. The holiday season is chalk-full of dopamine, an important brain chemical known for promoting happiness. The holidays are a stressful time, yes, but there’s a buzz in the December air that can’t quite be matched. We’re full of anticipation for our favorite holiday traditions and seeing friends and family. We attend fun holiday parties. Even the seasonal food and drink we enjoy releases dopamine.
In the blink of an eye, it’s gone. After the new year, we return to our normal schedules and are smacked in the face with lethargy and a general sense of gloom we hadn’t anticipated. In some ways, it’s like coming down from a high. The fun times are behind us, and it’s back to our regularly scheduled programs. We say goodbye sweets and cocktails in favor of health and wellness. In this kind of funk, picking up a new task or large project is daunting.
Suddenly, we aren’t looking to our resolutions with excitement—instead, they instill a sense of dread. Because of that post-holiday slump, we don’t feel the same enthusiasm we previously felt when reaching for our goals. We often don’t hit the ground running. Instead, we hit the ground face first and slowly pull ourselves back up.
For some, this is horribly discouraging. When one thought this would be their year, and so far, the year is kicking their butt, it’s all too easy to fall back into old habits and decide to try again next January. This feeling is so widespread, in fact, that one study shows a vast majority of people quit their New Year resolutions by January 19. Just five percent of the way through the year, and many already call it quits. Giving up intensifies the low feeling we’re already experiencing from that January slump.
But here’s the thing about that slump: it goes away. When we get readjusted to our routines, our moods stabilize and we finally get back to our normal selves. Perhaps there is a twinge of guilt about saying goodbye to our resolutions, but that feeling eventually fades away.
But should it?
Remember that excitement on December 31 that you felt when considering tackling your goals in the new year? That feeling doesn’t have to be gone. January 19 is only five percent of the way through the year. There is still a whopping 95 percent to go. The year is still fresh and full of possibilities.
Don’t pressure yourself into trudging through the muddy new year slump, and don’t punish yourself because you aren’t as strict with your goals as you should be in the first week or so of January. It’s still a new year. Even if you start your resolutions in February, you still have 92 percent of the year to go.
There is still plenty of time to be excited about the “new year, new me” once your slump clears. Your goals haven’t gone anywhere, and they won’t go anywhere. They’ve been patiently waiting for you to return to them to do something great. All you have to do is return to them.