Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Psychology of Resolutions

Research says that about 45% of the population make one or more resolutions at the onset of each New Year. Some of the top resolutions involve weight loss, exercising more, stopping smoking or drinking or other "bad" habits. Also popular are resolutions to manage finances better.

Psychologically speaking, the end of a year generally moves us to self-reflect. We think about what was good about the year. The moments that were trying or hard - and all of the moments in-between. The beginning of a New Year can represent a fresh clean slate, where we start anew. It can be a time of new found hope and motivation.

While a lot of people who make New Year's resolutions generally find them hard to keep, research shows that making resolutions can be useful. People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't make any.

I like to set realistic goals for myself each year. Some are personal, like exercising more and eating better. Others are professional, such as researching a new subject or presenting at a conference. Of course, I don't achieve all these goals. But for me, I know that thinking about change leads me toward change. And that's a good way to start the year.

What about you?
Do you use the New Year as a benchmark?

Norcross, J.C.; Mrykalo, M.S. & Blagys, M.D. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers.
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405.


onelongjourney said...

Hmmm - perhaps a bad sign that I haven't made any yet for this year when I usually do.

Perhaps my resolution will be to try EMDR.

Happy New Year to you Dr. Deb! :)

Xmichra said...

I use the end of the holidays as a benchmark for sure. I started my new health & wellness plan yesterday, so I am more prone to think that the end of the baking and bad food choices is more my reflection point than a date on the calendar. But they coinside, so it's fair enough to call it a new years resolution.

I didn't make resolutions last year, and found that I was not as excited to better myself. What I mean, is I didn't intentionally read, learn, view, hear, or do anything on purpose. I think there is something to be said for purpose, so this year I have made a little list of reasonable things :)

Wanda's Wings said...

My biggest resolution was to live a healthier life style. Last year knocked me down so many times. I just want this year to have more joy.

Dr. Deb said...

I would like to try EMDR too. That's a good goal maybe for us both to aim for this year :) You can also make a goal of not making goals this year and letting spontaneity guide you. There really are no rules. Just aim for well being, I say.

I don't hold hard and fast to "resolutions". Making promises can backfire and leave you feeling like a failure. Having a goal in mind means if I reach it - that's great. If not, I'll keep trying. Semantics, maybe, but defining it that way works for me. And yes, "reasonable" is key.

Yes, 2010 was a very very hard year for you. I hope 2011 will bring you some lightness and joy.

Ami said...

My resolution is posted on my blog. Same resolution this year as last.

I will try to do the same one every year. It makes me feel good.

Angeliki said...

I LOVE this time of the year! I spend pretty much all December reflecting and making plans for the 2011. This year my resolutions are more manageable, hope to stick to them this time :-)

AdmGln said...

I have rarely made resolutions in the past, but I think this year may be a year try it out.

Clare said...

Happy New Year to you Deb.

I don't really make any New Year Resoloutions. I would prefer to take each day as it comes since I never manage to make any of the goals I set anyway :).

PTC said...

No resolutions for me.

onelongjourney said...

Dr. Deb - Sounds like a plan. I'm aiming for earlier in the year, but we'll see what my T thinks of that. I've been a bit "fragile" of late.

practicalceseminars said...

I always enjoy the time to reflect and begin anew, that the New Year presents. This year my, daughter's, my husband, and I made vision boards for our dreams and resolutions. Great way to begin the new year.

TK Kerouac said...

Having ADD, I haven't figured out the main New Years resolution yet

I think the main one will be something like,
dealing with my ADD
How to stop procrastinating!

~Just me again~ said...

I make resolutions, but as usual, they end up in my closet like my 'good intention' materials for hobbies. But maybe if I follow through with one it may not be a bad thing.

Happy New Year Dr Deb.

CrackerLilo said...

I'm NeoPagan, so I tend to do this on Samhain (a/k/a Halloween). I consider that a better time. It was considered the end of the year by the ancient Celts. It just seems to work better for me than January 1st ever did.

That said, it does have significance for me. My wife grew up in Russia, where it was considered an important holiday. Because of her, New Year's Eve became our wedding date, so I cherish the day for that alone. Also, since she's an instructor at a gym, I consider it the last real day of peace before all her "resolution" clients keep her super-busy! I guess her bank account and the shared "household" account benefit from others' resolutions.

skip said...

Dr. Deb - Happy New Year!
I have a question I hope you or anyone else can answer. I started the Blogger blog last April with the same template that you have. I may change in the future but for now it works for me.

The tiny gray arrow icons next to each of your links...where do I go in HTML to change the color of these icons?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I cannot do it in the new template designer.

S'onnie said...

This is perhaps the first year in a while where I didn't make resolutions However I have made some start on setting some goals for this year. I want to buy a house, get a different job and do a course through the university - I am 2/3rd of the way through two different degrees so it would be good to complete them

Anonymous said...

I certainly use the end of the year as a time to reflect, but I don't make New Year resolutions. I do identify things I'd like to do during the coming year, or achieve, but to me the label "NY resolutions" seems a certain road to failure. I also think that if you want to change something in your life - stop smoking, drinking, improve your relationship, eat better, whatever - then why wait until the NY? Why not start now?

Of course, my own life is far from this "perfect" reality. LOL

Mz.Elle said...

This year I've done something a bit different..I asked for a dream to show me what my focus of the new year should be on..the answer I got was Love-well actually,my first dream was about a stripper but I am NOT doing that,heh-and so this year, I am going to look at all things in my life with Love.
So far so good,it is challenging to remember every day but my experiences have been much richer and joyful..kinda cool!

purple cupcakes said...

we always set more gaols for the next year its like a private goal setting that sees us throguh for anotehr year.

Raine said...

I haven't made any resolutions this year. I quit smoking after smoking for over 30 years and I quit in May. I feel that make resolutions just sets me up to feel like a failure and i Just do what needs doing as it comes up