“I’ll lose 10kg this year.”
“No more cigarettes for me in the New Year!”
“After December 31st, I’ll start going to the gym more often.”
“Diet starts January 1.”
Sound familiar? These are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions related to healthy changes that many people make as the New Year approaches. But, as is also common, resolutions can end up becoming difficult to maintain after the initial excitement of setting well-intentioned goals.
One of the earliest scientific studies on New Year’s resolutions found that 77% of participants in the study had maintained their resolutions one week after starting. That percentage gradually decreased to 55% after one month, 43% after three months, 40% after six months, and finally 19% after two years.
The good news, though, is that it is possible to make – and keep – New Year’s resolutions. In a more recent large-scale experiment, the results showed that it is possible for New Year’s resolutions to have lasting effects. The trick is to set your New Year’s resolutions as goals that are specific and attainable and to create a supportive environment that can further encourage you to attain your resolutions.
To help you make New Year’s resolutions that can enable more long-term, healthier habits beyond just the month of January, check out our 5 tips:
1. Reflect over the past year and set goals that are realistic, attainable and specific
Spend some time reflecting over the past year and thinking about what habits you are dedicated to creating or improving in the New Year. Write down your resolution(s) and be as specific as possible for each one. For example, “going for a 30-minute walk three to five days per week” is more specific than saying “be more physically activity.” By putting a timeframe for how long and often each physical activity session will be, this can give you more confidence that the activity is achievable.
2. Make an action plan that incorporates potential roadblocks
One you have set your attainable resolutions, develop an action plan to set your standard, not a schedule. What do we mean by that? Whereas a schedule can be more rigid, a standard gives you the flexibility everyone needs. A common misconception is that New Year’s resolutions can be achieved through quick fixes or going “cold turkey” if you’re trying to quit a habit like smoking, but this will likely fail instead. Consider giving yourself some flexibility on achieving your goals instead. Even if one week you find yourself going for two of your weekly 30-minute walks rather than the planned three to five days, that’s okay. Knowing that every week is not going to be the same helps in not only making your resolutions more realistic but it also takes away the pressure you put on yourself to be perfect. Don’t give up.
3. Have a way to track your progress
Writing down your progress in either a journal or diary is a great way to keep you on track and recover if you find yourself slipping. Various mobile apps and digital methods for tracking progress are also available, including apps for diet and nutrition, exercise and mental health.
4. A supportive environment is key
A supportive environment includes both the social support you receive from loved ones and the physical environment around you that may influence your behaviors. Share your New Year’s resolutions with friends and/or family and ask them for their support – you may even find that others may want to join you. Research shows that by doing healthy activities with a loved one, you and those joining you are more likely to keep up that behavior. Additionally, changing your physical environment plays a part. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, throw away ashtrays and lighters in your home. If you are trying to improve your nutrition, throw out highly processed foods or place them on hard-to-reach shelves. You can also consider enrolling in classes, workshops, or group counselling to learn more while connecting with like-minded people, if accessible to you.
5. Don’t forget to remember how far you’ve come
It’s important to reward yourself when you’ve achieved a small goal or milestone. It may feel silly at first to celebrate these small wins, but having these goal-posts along the journey to your intended destination is part of the process. Taking time to celebrate the progress you are making is also a good chance to reflect on how far you’ve come in the grand scheme of things. And remember: good changes can take time.
The New Year isn’t the only time where healthy changes can start – anyone can develop healthier habits at any time of the year. But why not take advantage of the collective opportunity during New Year’s to think about how to improve one’s health and well-being? New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be a flop – with the right mindset and some initial planning, you can sow your New Year’s resolutions to become important lifestyle changes.
1. Norcross , J. C., & Vangarelli, D. J. (n.d.). The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts. Journal of substance abuse. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2980864/
2. Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020, December 9). A large-scale experiment on New Year's resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PloS one. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725288/