Happy New Year! Making Resolutions Stick

Wishing you a meaningful, joyful, and healthy 2018!  New Year’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the past year. What did you appreciate the most about 2017? Which goals did you accomplish? What events bring the most joy? Which relationships were most supportive and fun? Now, consider how you can bring more of this into 2018. New Year’s Day is a time for many to make resolutions for the next year. Or for others, avoiding resolutions altogether after trying to enforce resolutions, only to find motivation waning after six months of an otherwise great run with a new health habit.

It reminds me of a classic, useful article written by John Norcross and colleagues about what predicts whether we stick with our New Year’s resolutions and what strategies support our success.  They looked at 213 adults who made resolutions and followed-up with them by phone over six months.  The most common resolutions were weight loss, smoking cessation, improving relationships or finances, and saying no.  After one week, 77% were able to stick to their resolutions, 55% for one month, but after six months, only 40% stuck to their plan.  There were several key differences between successful and unsuccessful resolvers.

Those who felt ready to change and had CONFIDENCE, or believed in their ability to change (self-efficacy) were more successful despite their level of support.  Startup Stock PhotosSuccessful resolvers also exhibited less self-blame or self-criticism with slips and less wishful thinking or reliance on fantasy.  They also utilized several useful coping skills.  Successful resolvers reported greater self-liberation (willpower) and stimulus control, or keeping things around to remind them of the changes they wanted to make.  For instance, keeping the chips out of the house and having more healthy snacks available for someone trying to improve snacking habits.  Contingency management, or self-reinforcement for positive changes were also helpful consistent with other studies. Those who were successful also had a bump in self-esteem compared to those who failed to stick to their resolutions.

We will look at SMART goal setting next week to help maintain our resolutions!  For now, here’s to time to reflect, identify what is most important to you, and meaningful and successful resolutions in the new year!  Wishing you a joyful beginning to 2018!

Norcross, J.C., Ratlin, A.C., & Payne, D. (1989). Ringing in the New Year: The change processes and reported outcomes of resolutions.  Addictive Behaviors, 14, 205-212.

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