With the arrival of another year, many people find themselves waking up on January 1st with one question moving forward: “What is my new year’s resolution?” But before you resolve to cut out that one vice in your life cold turkey, you may want to know if New Year’s resolutions are even an effective way to bring out changes in your life?
According to Dr. Kimberly Moffit, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and councilor, the answer is “not really.”
“New Year’s resolutions only work in very few cases and typically with those who have a will of steel,” she says.
Dr. Moffit says the problem is that people usually aim to make massive lifestyle changes. These changes, however, are rarely going to occur within the week that most people expect changes to occur in. The therapist stressed that the psychological impact of taking on too much at once can simply burn a person out such that they give up on whatever initiative they started on.
Dr. Moffit says that trying to quit smoking is amongst the hardest resolution to achieve, because most smokers associate smoking with relaxation, which nearly everyone needs/enjoys.
“So you have to think about how you are going to get these little blocks in the day where you can relax, whether it’s putting on a beautiful piece of music and relaxing at your desk, going for a walk somewhere or eating your lunch on the park bench outside.”
New Year’s Resolutions Statistics
Let’s look at the numbers regarding New Year’s resolutions for Americans. According to the Opinion Corporation of Princeton, NJ, the percentages are as follows:
- 45% of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions; 17% infrequently set resolutions; 38% absolutely never set resolutions.
How many stay true to their chosen course? How many veer off somewhere before completion?
- Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year. 49% have infrequent success. 24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. (That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed.)
Great New Year’s Resolutions
Dr. Moffit encourages people to concentrate more so on the positives, and less on the negatives. In other words, if you’ve decided you will give up smoking, and eat more vegetables, see the latter a desired benefit—something you get to do, instead of a restriction.
Laura Jackson, founder of Fit Chicks Boot Camp argues that the key to success is specificity and preparation.
“That’s the biggest faux pas people make,” she says, “They say, ‘This year I’m going to lose weight,’ but it’s like, how much weight do you want to lose? By when? And what is your action plan to get there?”
“Losing weight and getting healthy isn’t just a numbers game. There’s an emotional factor and social factor that goes into it,” says Jackson. “Are you hanging around with people who are sabotaging you or are energy vampires? New Year’s is a good time to look at your life and ask who is adding to my life and who is taking away?”
Is It Worth It?
According to the aforementioned statistics, there is absolutely no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success. People who met their goals, versus individuals who did not, saw no difference in happiness—talk about a punch line. This conclusion doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set a goal for yourself, obviously. It just means you should be realistic about your expectations, and how that will, in turn, affect your emotional well-being. If the prospect of a singular goal seems too daunting, try adopting instead a more of a general theme. While raising your overall happiness may be harder to achieve, instituting some change—any desired change—in your life is easy, and definitely doable.