The other day, we saw a headline claiming that February is the best time for a New Year’s resolution. Now, if you know us, you know we’re not the biggest fans of New Year’s resolutions. When you set hard and fast rules for yourself, you can “fail” and feel disappointed. When you instead have goals you are working toward, you can celebrate wins without focusing on fumbles.
But we know some people have great success with New Year’s resolutions. Some people do better when they set rules for themselves. Seeing the headline made us wonder if there was science behind it. We worried that if it were true, we’d be too late to tell you. Today is February 12! As we looked into it, we saw some common sense in it.
“January isn’t for new goals and pushing yourself; January is pure survival.” January is 31 days long. It is cold and dark and comes in the wake of the holidays. You are bombarded with gym ads and other marketing campaigns telling you you aren’t doing enough to be your best self. It’s not a great time for change.
February, on the other hand, is the shortest month of the year. The days are getting brighter. The weeks are more normal with no national holidays. You can fall into a healthy routine more easily and accomplish something with less adversity.
February is great because it goes “faster.” We’re in a leap year. But 29 days is still easier than 31. You have also had time to reflect on any resolutions you might have started and quit last month. It happens to most Americans! Now, you can re-evaluate and pick something you care about more. Or, if it does matter, you can think about why it didn’t work and find a different approach to accomplish your goal.
“Life is about consistent, attainable healthy habits, or adding things into your life in manageable pieces,” said Thea Gallagher, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at NYU Langone Health. She recommended picking an “almost embarrassingly manageable” goal for your second attempt at a resolution. A resolution you accomplish will help you more and fill you with more satisfaction than a grand plan you don’t follow through on.
This is great advice. But we don’t feel badly for not posting this earlier in February. While researching, we found articles saying June is the best time for a New Year’s resolution because you only have to commit to six months. A goal is more achievable when broken into chunks. So, six months might be better for some folks. We found articles claiming September is the best time for New Year’s resolutions. It’s the start of the school year, so it’s a good way to mark the beginning of a health journey without the pressure of January. We found others that claimed the only way to make a New Year’s resolution work is to start it in December. The argument was that you have time to work out the kinks and be fully committed by January 1.
Reading all of them, they all made some degree of sense. And more importantly, they proved the same point again and again. Everyone is different and will find a pattern that works for them. We have said it many times before: any day is a great day to take a new step on a healthy journey. You can turn over a new leaf any day you like. You don’t need a calendar or time pressure to make it happen. There will always be 364 more days after “today,” no matter when that “today” is. You can mentally make it a new year whenever you are ready. If you’re ready, February is the perfect time for a New Year’s resolution. Otherwise, it’s the ideal time to sit down and think about your long-term health goals and the steps you will take to get there. Every day is the best day to take steps forward, regardless of the date!