New Year’s resolutions are beneficial, according to experts at Sacramento State University, who found that this method is ten times more effective for successfully meeting goals over a longer period of time than the method chosen by those who decide to change certain aspects of their lives at another time of the year.
The study, conducted through telephone interviews, involved 4,000 volunteers, according to Dr. Mike Evans, who presented the results of the research in a video. The answers obtained revealed that 41% of the interviewees stated that they want to make a change at the beginning of the year. The other respondents stated that they were either not interested in making any changes in their lives or that they wanted to change something in their lives, but not from the beginning of the year.
The experts followed the evolution of the participants over six months. About 71% of those who said they wanted to make a life change at the beginning of the year managed to stick to the proposed resolutions for two weeks. Their number dropped to 46% by the end of the six months. On the other hand, in the case of those who said they wanted to make a change in their lives, but at another time of year, the percentages were significantly lower. Only 51% of them managed to achieve their goal during the first two weeks, and, after six months, only 4% still adhered to the decisions they had made.
Formulating resolutions is just one step toward achieving your goals. Although it is an important step, it is equally true that it does not ensure success in following through on one’s decisions. According to figures provided by Dr. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, most of the decisions made for the New Year are not successfully fulfilled—88% of them, to be exact, The People points out.
The good news is that resolutions have the power to motivate us to meet our goals. Motivation is one of those key elements that help us be more determined on our way to meeting our goals. For instance, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Stirling found that the best time to quit smoking is the first month of the year, and one of the most important explanations for the phenomenon is exactly the motivation behind our resolutions. To this we can add the social support we receive in order to carry out our plans.
There is a whole science behind motivation, and knowing a few simple strategies to follow can increase one’s chances of success. Dr. Angela Grippo, a psychology assistant professor at Northern Illinois University, proposes, in an article for Psychology Today, a set of three strategies to apply in order to successfully achieve one’s goals in the New Year.
First of all, the resolution to be followed must be associated with a value that has been internalized. Therefore, if you want to adopt a beneficial diet or give up harmful habits, you can correlate this decision with a personal value, such as a healthy lifestyle. The next step is to prepare the ground in advance for the application of the resolution. This will prepare you to make the change, helping you to anticipate when you will take the step to change the respective aspect. Last but not least, your focus should be on the progress and gains you made since you started taking the first steps towards fulfilling your resolution to date. This will strengthen your motivation to continue.
However, New Year’s resolutions can cause you to fall into a trap that will prevent you from reaching your goal. One of these is the situation where the list of decisions for the coming year is far too long. In this case, your brain may sabotage you, causing you to stray from your goals.
The phenomenon was studied by Prof. Baba Shiv of Stanford University with the help of a group of students, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some of the volunteers were asked to remember a two-digit number, while the rest of the participants had to remember a seven-digit number. Then, both groups were invited to choose between two dessert options: a fruit salad or a slice of chocolate cake. Those who had to remember the more complex number were twice as likely to choose the snack rich in sugar and calories, compared to those who memorized a two-digit number. The more “loaded” with information, the harder it is for the brain to resist temptations, Prof. Shiv says.
Nevertheless, an individual’s exercise and mental discipline can help the brain to avoid falling into the trap of temptations that distract them from the decisions made. For example, Prof. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, conducted an experiment in which he asked a group of students to correct their posture for two weeks, according to WSJ. Compared to the students who did not participate in this exercise, those who were asked to correct their body posture developed future self-control skills in this regard.
Even if we do not have the certainty that we will succeed in changing the desired aspects of our lives, making New Year’s resolutions can be an important personal step for anyone. Making these decisions motivates us and helps us to take the first steps towards the much desired change, provided that we remain dedicated to them (through exercise and self-discipline).