Do you ever get this regret-feeling of “what the heck just happened??” after a week of Christmas and New Year’s (Eve) eating and drinking? “Why did I overindulge again, after vowing NOT to?”. New Year’s Resolutions kick in.
Why do we do it? And what about the rest of the year?
There are many reasons why. One of them is chemical-neurological; the other has to do with mindfulness.
Our brains are hardwired to seek good feelings and avoid bad ones, which is generally reasonable. It helps us stay alive. Stuffing our faces around Christmas makes us feel good, temporarily. Fat, sugar, and alcohol: they all help to release dopamine, the feel-good hormone. This increases the merriness we are experiencing around this time of year. Other people feel rather sad, lonely, and depressed around Christmas. For them, the dopamine release can help them think LESS so.
For many people, the “rest of the year” is a somewhat stressful experience—financial worries, job, relationships, health, etc. Christmas is THE time to either forget about life’s stresses for a bit or see them strongly amplified. Either way, sugar, fat, and alcohol will make life seem OK for a bit, until the new year and the regret set in.
The simple (but not always easy) answer lies in increasing your overall mindfulness level, which roughly translates as “acceptance of present reality with awareness.” Most humans always seek sensory stimulation: we crave things that smell, taste, feel, sound, and look good. Nothing is wrong with that, but in most cases, we’ve turned it into an addiction: we continuously need MORE stimulation to maintain that good feeling or not feel as miserable as we do when we don’t satisfy our cravings. Like any addiction, this attitude cannot be sustained. Just look at the stats on depression, anxiety, and stress. We are not coping.
Mindfulness practices, combined with a process of “rethinking our thoughts,” can help to let go of that constant NEED to satisfy our senses. This will lead to you having an “even keel” throughout the year. This, in turn, takes away the need to overindulge and then have to deal with the regret that invariably hits you. And, even better, it will allow you to feel good all year round, without the need for external stimulants.
There are plenty of resources available to start becoming more “present” and start changing your thoughts. My work is one of those resources. Make a New Year’s Resolution to start mastering them; feeling stressed will slowly become a thing of the past, which I think is the best result any Resolution could yield.