How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions
Thu, April 22, 2021

How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions

Unrealistic resolution is the reason why most people fail to achieve it. / Photo credit by Sira Jantararungsan via 123rf



Every time a new year rolls around, people set out to better themselves. It’s the time that all of us reflect on how our lives have changed throughout the year and what we can do to improve. This is where a New Year’s resolution comes in – a promise a person makes for the new year.

These resolutions come in many forms, from promising to change a bad habit to planning to develop a positive habit.

The earliest recorded celebration that honors the coming of a new year dates back 400 years in Babylon. Because they followed a different calendar, they would kick off the event in late March, during the first new moon and after the Spring Equinox.

The celebration of a new year was known as the Akitu festival, which lasted 11 days. Resolutions continued on with the Romans, when the date of the event changed. Julius Caesar declared January 1 the first day of the year after consulting his best astronomers and mathematicians. Since then, the traditions of the ancient Babylonians and Romans have been celebrated around the world, in different ways.

According to Psych Central, an independent mental health social network, the most popular New Year’s goals people set include starting to exercise (37%), eating better (13%), and reducing the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs or quitting smoking (7%). A 2016 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that 55% of resolutions were health-related.



Why We Fail at Keeping a New Year’s Resolution

Most of us that set these resolutions fail to commit to them. According to Business Insider, a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals, 80% of people fail to stick to their New Year's resolutions for longer than six weeks. A study also showed that 75% of people who make a resolution fail on their first attempt. 

The main reason that people don’t stick to their resolutions is that they set too many or they’re unrealistic to achieve. This is known as “false hope syndrome.” False hope syndrome is characterized by an individual’s unrealistic expectations about the likely amount, speed, ease, and consequences of changing their behavior. Some of us underestimate the time and effort that it would take to achieve a goal.



Spencer Gerrol, the CEO of neuroanalytics company SPARK Neuro, stated that one of the most common reasons we fail at keeping a New Year’s resolution is that people get carried away by the general enthusiasm for New Year's resolutions, thus, they set lofty goals. According to Forbes, this mindset stimulates our brain, which places these goals at the center of our minds for a while.

"It's a time of year when it is socially acceptable to talk about your goals and culturally expected to dream big. When setting these resolutions, dopaminergic reward systems (the orbitofrontal cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex) become more active,” Gerrol said. 

However, previous studies show that although we find it difficult to commit to our New Year’s resolutions, those who set goals for the upcoming year are more likely to succeed. The researchers revealed that 46% of individuals who made resolutions were successful compared to the 4% who wanted to achieve a certain goal and considered it but didn’t actually create a resolution.

How to Set New Year’s Resolutions Effectively


Refraining oneself to do something would make one feel like they are breaking ther resolutions. / Photo credit by Vesna Cvorovic via 123rf


One of the most effective ways to stick with our resolutions is to set realistic goals. This can help us determine what we can achieve and what we can’t do. At the same time, people should remember that New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes. It’s not mandatory and we should only do this if there’s a great need to change something within ourselves. 

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for. Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time,” psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., said.

Here are some ways people could stick with their New Year’s resolutions:

1 - Frame goals in positive terms.

According to Psychology Today, an American general-interest psychology magazine, successfully sticking with our resolutions is about dealing with ironic processes--the mind’s “monitoring system.” Ironic processes unconsciously keep track of other processes in the mind that take place outside of awareness. When setting up a goal, you should try framing goals in positive terms instead of saying things like “Don’t buy that TV. You don’t need new pants. There is no need to eat out tonight,” which would probably make you feel like breaking your resolutions even more.

2 - Start small

People should remember that it’s not necessary to achieve big goals. Make it simple. The more simple these plans are, the more you can achieve it. For instance, if you aim to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven.

3 - Do one thing at a time.

Having too many resolutions can lead to failure because you’ll get confused in the long run. Do just one thing at a time. Just choose one goal and do your best to stick to it. 

Sticking with a New Year’s resolution can be easy only if we set it realistically and we commit ourselves to seeing results.