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Opinion and Insight

Why I’m Ditching the Resolution Delusion in 2017 – and Just Reading More Books Instead

Sportswear and health brands are everywhere in January, but maybe there’s a gentler approach to the New Year’s Resolution? Laura Swinton discusses

Why I’m Ditching the Resolution Delusion in 2017 – and Just Reading More Books Instead

I think the shop windows are trying to tell me something. Grey plastic mannequins clad in lurid Lycra. Olympian-sponsored food programmes. Sweaty models playing attractively vigorous rounds of basketball on giant video screens. Even Facebook is at it, pushing yoga video subscriptions. It’s January, so of course brands are hijacking every possible platform to persuade me that they will be the key to becoming fitter, happier, more productive in 2017. 

But this ain’t my first round of ‘it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change’. Of ‘when I find the right trainers I’ll definitely run every day’. Of ‘mmm, yes, that spiraliser is going to revolutionise the way I eat and it definitely won’t be sitting, dusty, at the back of the cupboard come February’. Of, ‘once I’ve found that perfect notebook, the novel will definitely write itself’. The idea that the right purchase will buy your way into thinness, fitness, healthiness, productivity, that when you make that one perfect purchase your life will switch from grey to great, is one that brands leverage to great effect this time of year. And it’s an idea I’ll usually buy into. I’m not an idiot. It’s just a really useful form of procrastination and self-delusion. Marketers think they’re being oh-so-clever… but, who’s using who?

This year, though, the resolution delusion has stretched far enough. When I’m not coddling myself with reassuring consumerism I swing the other way and New Year’s Resolutions become a miserable exercise in self-flagellation. 

It’s just no fun. 

So this year’s resolution is all about intrinsic rewards. Doing things that are enjoyable for their own sake. Making a commitment to doing things that I genuinely enjoy but have neglected because of Reddit rabbit holes and YouTube time vortices. 

Reading actual three dimensional paper and ink books, for example, is something that I’ve always loved, but semi-literate Donald Trump supporters ranting in BTL comment sections and Westworld fan theories have been getting in the way. So this year, I’m challenging myself to read a book a week. I can’t decide if that’s a lot or not very many at all. However, given that 28% of Americans don’t read any books in any format in the space of a year, and that 4 million UK adults never read for pleasure, I don’t think it’s too bad going.

But this isn’t about other people. I might not hit that target, I might go way over. What I’m hoping is that having some kind of goal in mind will remind me to pick up my book instead of reaching for my phone whenever I get 10 minutes of down time. 

‘Shit in, shit out’ is a popular maxim amongst data analysts, and I’m hoping that the reverse is true too. There’s evidence that reading fiction improves empathy, ‘embodied cognition’ (or the ability to imagine yourself doing something you’re not or being someplace else), and your ability to cope with the uncertainty of real life – all pretty handy for those engaged in creative careers. Reading a diverse array of nonfiction boosts your broader knowledge base and understanding of the world. And, more generally, reading has been found to be a more effective stress reducer than listening to music. This is all brilliant news, mainly because it means I don’t need to force myself out running in the January damp at 6am to do something that’s good for me.

It’s week two and I’m on Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Heart Goes Last’, a cross over between Soylent Green, Stepford Wives and True Lies and a playful satire of the prison-industrial complex. And the recommendations are flooding in. 

I’m hoping that this kind of approach is going to have a gentler ripple effect over other areas of life and being – creativity, productivity, mental clarity, general activity. And yes, it’s just as engaged in the consumerist treadmill as my annual half-arsed fitsploitation attempts. But at least I stand half a chance of sticking to it.

Genre: PR , People , Strategy/Insight