How your New Year’s resolutions will succeed in 2020
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40-50% of people make New Year’s resolutions (Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys, 2002). Is it useful to actually make New Year’s resolutions? What is the success rate? What makes them fail and what makes them succeed? I checked the scientific literature and I’ll tell you what is bollocks and what is real about New Year’s resolutions.
Do New Year’s resolutions work?
Is it useful to actually make New Year’s resolutions? According to Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys (2002), making actual New Year’s resolutions will make you ten times more likely to succeed. Six months later, 46% of them succeeded against just 4% of comparable people that were interested in changing a problem, but didn’t make a New Year’s resolution (Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys, 2002). That’s a very high success rate.
So New Year’s resolutions work great for half of the people. But it somewhat depends on how they are meant. Do you make a resolution just to change behaviour and get results in the following year, or do you want to make a lifestyle change? Norcross & Vangarelli (1988) found that after two years, 19% of the people had maintained their New Year’s resolutions.
Personally, I think these are great numbers, as I expect not many of the resolutions are meant to be a real lifestyle change. After 6 months, 1 in 2 resolvers succeed, while half of the non-resolvers already drop their good behaviour in 3-4 weeks (Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys, 2002). And 1 in 5 will actually make a lifestyle change based on a New Year’s resolution (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988)!
This is how you’ll make your New Year’s resolutions work
Predictors of success (after six months) are people’s self-efficacy, skills to change and readiness to change before January, 1st (Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys, 2002). Data from the two-year study showed that successful coping processes were stimulus control (people kept things around to remind themselves), reinforcement (people rewarded themselves after reaching goals) and willpower (commitment to one own’s decision, self-control, self-blame) (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988).
Self-reported methods that were significant in succeeding were counterconditioning (exercise adverse behaviour), fading (gradual reduction in behaviour) and contingency management (what to do in situations that are out of the ordinary). 53% of successfull resolvers slipped at least once and on average 14 times, but still managed to keep their pledges for two years. These slips always happened when they experienced excessive stress, negative emotions and lack of personal control (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988).
Desire to change and social support were no predictors of success after six months. Although social support and interpersonal strategies failed to predict success before 6 months in the other study too, they significantly did so thereafter. Furthermore, in the six months study is that by regularly talking to the interviewer, half of the non-resolvers actually went from contemplating to actively trying to changing their behaviour. This means that to upgrade your chance of success, you need other people.
The 5 best tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions
By now, you’re maybe thinking: “Okay, great. But what do I need to remember from all this?”. No worries, I summarised these relevant results in 5 tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions:
- Gradually change your behaviour
- Don’t give up after one slip (or more)
- Think in advance of special circumstances and corresponding ways to keep to your promise
- Report your progress to another
- Ask for support from people around you, especially if its a more permanent behavioural change (lifestyle change)
Apps for New Year’s resolutions
While those tips are actually all you need, some people want to use a mobile app as a reminder for their New Year’s resolutions. The image below shows you the apps for New year’s resolutions that I have installed on my phone. Sometimes, I use them regularly, and in others I completely forget about them. Apps like Resolutions, Chains and Lifetick help me with keeping track and monitoring my general resolutions and Bellabeat, Spire and FatSecret help with the health-related ones.
What are your resolutions?
Most common New Year’s resolutions: people want to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier and quit smoking. According to a study in 2011, 50% of women have weight loss as their New Year’s resolution. There is just one thing they need to prevent! You can read about it in the blog about healthy eating after New Year.
My personal New Year’s resolutions for next year? Actively make more time for relaxation & eat less eggs and dairy. You can read here why. What’s yours? I would love to hear from you through a comment or an email. Remember: regular reporting will make you more prone to take action!
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