Psychology plays into New Year’s resolutions


A resolution that is just put together on the spot, on the day of New Year’s will most likely fail. A resolution that is met needs to be specific, realistic, and thought through. One way to make a resolution happen is to write it down because it increases the likelihood of you meeting that resolution go from 40% to 100%.

Habits, though, are the things that could really make or break a resolution. Habits on average take 21 days to form or to get rid of. Therefore, if people aren’t putting enough time and effort into changing a habit, then the resolution won’t be met. Freshman Darian Jones isn’t a huge fan of resolutions because so many people don’t succeed. “New year’s resolutions are just an idea that is meant to cause positive change in one’s life, but ends up filling them with guilt because they fail to reach this goal,” Jones said.

Psychology teacher Mrs. Amy McLeay knows all about motivation and how it can be difficult to find. “People make resolutions for all kinds of reasons, personal growth and social influence are likely the biggest contributors,” McLeay said. Many resolutions are about bettering health through exercising and eating healthy. Only about 10% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions for more than a few months, said Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. This is because many people make their resolutions too vague, unrealistic, or on the spot. Therefore, they are difficult to achieve, and it’s easy to lose motivation.

“The motivation to achieve a goal and follow through takes a mindset of communication, intention, and accountability,” McLeay said. Have someone else help hold you accountable, like a workout buddy or someone sharing the same goal.”

Martin Seligman, who has a PhD in psychology, works at the University of Pennsylvania, and founded Positive Psychology, has said New Year’s resolutions should be instead about looking at the past year, doing a self-review and seeing which areas of life to improve. They shouldn’t cause stress and shouldn’t be made out of pressure or obligation. Seligman says to write out the specific steps needed to meet resolutions. 

Thinking about the different areas of life as a whole is beneficial and then set smaller goals in each category that are definitive and attainable. Knowing one’s strengths will help write a resolution by making ones that build them up.

Seligman also says if it’s been a debilitating or stressful year, making a resolution in the New Year sets up more stress and pressure. Freshman Shelby Woodard agrees. “I would rather grow in my own time, not according to the changing calendar,” Woodard said. Even though many resolutions at New Year’s end up not being met, if you make one be sure to make it realistic, positive, and specific.

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