Is Your New Year’s Resolution a Long Forgotten Memory?

Don’t beat yourself up. Reward yourself instead.

Call me a heretic but as Mardi Gras fades into the background and the Lenten season moves into full swing I can’t help but notice that it falls at a time when most of us have either given up on or relaxed our dedication to our New Year’s resolutions.

Originated in ancient Babylon, Lent was merged with Easter by the Romans to coincide with the Christian holiday of Easter. Originally, a forty-day abstinence period that was anciently observed in honor of the pagan gods Osiris, Adonis and Tammuz (John Landseer, Sabaean Researches, pp. 111, 112) Lent comes from paganism, not from the Bible. And I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t also have to do with a human desire to re-align with our goals as spring approaches.

What was that resolution that seemed so important on January 1?

To reinvigorate our dedication, I suggest gold stars — or smiley faces or a heartfelt, “you did it” or internal high five.

Studies have shown that celebrating a victory immediately increases our dopamine, the chemical that not only makes us feel good but also helps reinforce our habits.

We also know that a small, immediate reward is better than an abstract one. An immediate internal celebration in the form of “awesome job beautiful” or “I did it” actually works better than a promise of a latte after working out 5 days in a row.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t reward ourselves with the latte (or chocolate, or new shoes, or whatever it is that floats your boat… unless, of course you’ve given it up for Lent) at the end of the week. I’m just suggesting that we don’t forget the little celebrations along the way.

Nothing fancy here folks. Just a little celebration of the small victories… which seems way easier than co-opting a holiday as the Romans did or observing 40 days of abstinence like the Babylonians.