First of all, Happy New Year!
With a new year comes new opportunities, challenges, and of course, new year resolutions.
People make these resolutions with the end goal of being a better version of themselves, no wonder that the most popular resolutions all have something to do with health (exercise more, lose weight, quit smoking), finances (save more, spend less), and lifestyle choices (read more, travel more).
According to the American Psychological Association, a whopping 93% of people make new year resolutions. The bad news is that among those people, only 19% will keep their resolutions for up to 2 years. Over 20% give up after a week. Not to mention that by the time the first month is over, almost half of them fail to maintain their resolutions.
Not really the most encouraging stats to kick start this year and this article.
However, not all hope is lost.
Much research has been done on new year resolutions, why they are broken, and how people maintain them. So, let’s hear from the experts of human behavior and psychology and learn some hacks that will help you keep to your resolutions this year.
Be Realistic With Your Goals
Let’s start with setting resolutions.
Being ambitious is a good thing, but when your goals seem too far out of reach, it could actually be counterproductive.
You are more likely to put it off or fail if you have a task that’s too daunting.
If your resolution this year is to start reading more, consider what is reasonable for you to do. Instead of setting an ambitious goal that says “I will read 100 books this year,” try “I will read 10 books this year,” or simply “I will read more books than I did last year.”
I’m not saying that you cannot read 100 books in a year, but that daunting number could lead to frustrations and procrastination. 10, on the other hand, sounds more like a manageable (and doable) number if you are trying to get into the habit of reading.
One Thing at a Time
It is common to have more than one new year’s resolution. As the fresh year starts, you might be extra motivated to tackle all of your resolutions together, but it would be better in the long run if you focus on one thing at a time.
Changing behaviors is hard, and expecting to change old habits in a short amount of time is mostly unrealistic. Most people fail to stick to their resolutions because of the “false hope syndrome,” which involves having unrealistic expectations about how quick and easy it would be to dramatically change behaviors.
If you tackle multiple goals at once, you could be overwhelmed by all the changes and challenges. This could lead to feelings of frustration, and that is not helpful for keeping your resolutions.
For example, if exercising more, eating healthily, reading more, and cutting back on alcohol are all on your list of resolutions this year, it might be better to not do them all at the same time. It is a good idea to start with one first, and don’t start tackling the second one before you have the first one under control.
Try Adding Something to Your Life
Studies have shown that adding new behaviors to your life is easier than cutting something out.
People whose resolutions included starting new behaviors (start exercising, start reading) are more successful at keeping to their resolutions than people who aimed to avoid doing something or stop doing something (stop eating unhealthy foods, quit drinking).
According to this study, almost 60% of people who set resolutions that involve adding something to their lives succeeded in keeping them. However, less than half of those who set resolutions that involve eliminating something from their lives were successful in keeping them.
So, if your resolution this year is to lose weight, instead of quitting unhealthy foods, you could start working out instead. It will yield the same result, and you will have a better chance of keeping your resolution.
If all your resolutions include quitting something, it’s best to take it slow. For example, if you aim to stop eating unhealthy take outs this year, try decreasing the amount you order gradually.
Instead of abstaining from take-outs completely from the 1st of January onwards, try decreasing the frequency of ordering from, say, 5 times a week to 4 times a week. As you get used to the new frequency, decrease it to 3 times a week, and so on.
Having support in doing anything is important and helpful, and research shows that it helps with sticking to your resolutions as well.
It was shown in an earlier study that social support has positive effects on pursuing personal goals. Additionally, according to this large-scale study, those who have some support have better results than those who do not and those who received extended support.
What we can learn from this is that you should not be afraid about asking for support from those you are close with.
Other than offering support, your family and friends could offer another type of aid.
By simply telling your friends and family about your new year’s resolutions, you will be more likely to keep them. That’s because you will try to avoid losing face by sticking to your resolutions, and your loved ones will remind you of the goals you set for yourself.
Those who reward themselves have a better chance of keeping their new year’s resolutions, and this is backed by a study as well.
What this means is that when you have made progress with your resolutions, you should reward yourself. The kind of reward depends on you. It could be a night out, a nice meal, or those new shoes you’ve been dying to get.
Even if you fail to reach what you have planned, you should still reward yourself.
Progress is progress, no matter how small.
So, if your resolution is hitting the gym at least 3 times a week, and you’ve only managed one gym session this week, you should still be proud of yourself!
2020 is finally over, and let’s hope 2021 has something better in store for all of us.
Many people make new year’s resolutions at the start of a new year, but not many keep them because changing behaviors is no easy feat.
If you sometimes find it hard to stick to your new year’s resolutions, try these tips, they might be able to help you stay on track and achieve everything on your list this year.