Lisa Markwell: Now don't go thinking it's time to change your life

Long dark days and seasonal penury aren’t circumstances in which to resolve things

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Regret, remorse, resolutions. Did you wake up this morning with any of the above in mind? It's as traditional as an ill-fitting jumper and indigestion to spend Boxing Day in a paroxysm of piousness after overindulging in food, booze and spending.

Caught out by the twin pre-Christmas battering rams of special offers (that case of prosecco seemed like a good idea when it was 25 per cent off in Sainsburys, didn't it) and must-have lists (imagine how many battery operated hamsters will be heading for landfill come Easter), the nation opens its eyes with a blank sheet of paper and a sharpened pencil, ready to write a "must-do-better" list for 2010. Those, that is, who have not been persuaded to queue up for "bargains" in the Boxing Day sales. Anyone daft enough to do that will get their financial and emotional hangover in early January instead, when the credit card statement arrives.

But is the New Year really a good time to turn over a new leaf? Wearied by not just the last six weeks of preparation for a single day of celebration, but by 12 months that saw us collectively battered by freak weather, freaky celebrities and frightening finances, who among us really has the appetite for reinvention? Well, perhaps only the MPs that are required to be more frugal and honest if they are to survive.

For the rest of us, we would do well to admit that long, dark days and seasonal penury don't make the best of circumstances for resolving to do anything. It's a time to batten down the hatches, live off fowl leftovers and watch musicals on heavy rotation, and to put off big decisions until things brighten up – both meteorologically and emotionally.

Let's recap the stupid decisions that you may be tempted to make come January.

One) You sign up for gym membership. Ask yourself this: is it a good idea to pull tight clothing on over a distended Christmassy belly and sweat profusely under harsh strip-lighting? No. And that's aside from signing over a substantial chunk of income for the privilege of doing it. Money that would be better off, frankly, sitting in the bank earning a smidgeon of interest ready for next December's spendfest. Yes it feels good to be taking some exercise but wouldn't a daily walk round the block with the family do the job just as well, and have the added bonus of being a realistic contribution to section two, which is...

Two) Resolving to spend more time connecting with your relatives, rather than just loving them disproportionately for the 24 hours that have just passed. It's easy to get all warm and fuzzy when emotions are fuelled by champagne and advocaat. Anyone can feign interest in their uncle's wood-turning hobby for one day. But you don't really want to hack down to Dorset once a month to follow the progress on that charming home-made chess set, now do you? Don't make promises you can't keep; just remember to send a card on their birthday.

Three) You will only drink at dinner parties/on the weekend/on special occasions. There are those who have, in the words of AA, genuinely come to believe that they are powerless over alcohol and that their lives have become unmanageable, but unless you think that applies to you, be real.

Yes, there's been a sharp spike in numbers of women (in particular) seeking help with their drinking, but throwing in your lot with the honest alcoholics, who don't make ridiculous goals but aim just to get through the next 24 hours without a drink, is a mistake. You'll soon find yourself inventing special occasions ("Ooh, the car's made it through its MOT") or inviting over the slightest of acquaintances just so that you can pop a cork. Drink a glass of water for every glass of wine and stop before you tell that fellow member of the PTA that you love them.

Four) You vow to make a much better effort in 2010 with cultural and self-improvement pursuits. You may feel sickened by the amount of hours you'll never get back that were spent watching reality TV shows, but that's no reason to get all highbrow now. A new year will not bring a genuine enthusiasm for the operas of Benjamin Britten or challengingly profane ceramics so don't spend good money on tickets for shows you'll slink out of guiltily at the interval. Ditto heaving the Hilary Mantel tome onto your knee every January bedtime, because knowing about Thomas Cromwell is "the right thing to do".

Now is the perfect time to escape into the pages of John Grisham or Jilly Cooper. And self-improvement, like a degree, is something that can't be rushed. So save the Wolf Hall for when you are clear-eyed and clear-headed.

This is your manifesto for the next seven days: resolve to do nothing. New Year and new leaves just don't go together. The Jewish faith may have it right by making their vows to improve in September (17th in 2010, make a note). After the summer holidays, when you've read the Booker long list, swum daily and eaten lots of salad, is the perfect time to stay on that doing-good roll.

Take it easy on yourself.

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