You may have noticed your yoga classes suddenly filled up last week, and many of your friends are ditching pasta in favor of salads and lean proteins. It’s officially 2020, and millions of people chose to ring in the New Year with a set of goals for healthier living. According to survey data from Inc, the most popular New Year’s Resolution was to diet or eat healthier (71%), with exercising more (65%) and losing weight (54%) rounding out the top three.
- Young adults are more likely to make resolutions than older generations, according to survey data cited by Casino. 93% of survey respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 made a resolution, followed by 87% of respondents between 18 and 24, while only 51% of people over 55 opted to participate in the New Year’s tradition.
- According to a study by the University of Scranton, only around 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, although the narrow metric for success doesn’t necessarily take into account many positive changes participants might experience even if they slip up at some point during the year
- Women are more likely to make money-related resolutions than men—23% of women surveyed in the Casino data resolved to save more in the coming year, while only 11% of men made the same resolution.
If you haven’t set a New Year’s resolution yet, it’s not too late! The early weeks of the New Year are a great time to reflect on all you’ve learned and experienced in the past twelve months, and to think of patterns you’d like to change or habits you’d like to develop in the coming twelve. We compiled information on what kinds of resolutions are more likely to be successful, as well as ideas for small changes you can make to improve your quality of life.
Too often, New Year’s resolutions are viewed as punitive, a penance for holiday indulgence and fun. However, if the New Year is viewed as an opportunity for reflection and growth, the idea of making small, manageable changes that increase your wellbeing can be exciting and affirming instead.
Why Do Resolutions Fail?
The most popular resolutions that Americans make are diet and exercise-related, according to survey data cited by Inc. While harnessing the momentum of the New Year to change your eating habits is a great idea, these kinds of resolutions may be hard to maintain simply because they’re so broad and ambitious.
According to nutritionist Dr. Carly Moores in an interview for the New York Post, “Unrealistic expectations are a big reason resolutions fail.” Instead of making broad prohibitions that are difficult to maintain, the key is to focus on one small change at a time, and then to continue building on that change gradually.
If you want to eat healthier, for example, a smaller, more manageable goal might be to incorporate an extra serving of greens into your diet every day. Rather than making punitive resolutions, focusing on one simple, concrete action sets you up for success. Then, when you do add spinach or vegetables to your lunch, you feel proud of yourself, rather than feeling shameful every time you indulge in a sugary treat. By creating positive associations with your new, healthy habits, you’re motivated to keep working towards your goal, rather than feeling discouraged every time you slip up.
Smaller Resolutions that Set you up for Success
The American Psychological Association published a guide for making New Year’s resolutions stick. They emphasize the importance of choosing manageable goals and only changing one behavior at a time. It’s difficult to be successful if you try to overhaul multiple aspects of your life at once.
They also emphasize the importance of talking about your goal with family and friends, so that you have more people holding you accountable and more support and encouragement from loved ones. The other important point they make is that too often, people give up after a minor misstep. Rather than throwing in the towel any time you mess up, focus on the amount of progress you’ve made and look for ways to keep improving.
If amping up your exercise routine or cutting carbs doesn’t seem like the most productive goal for you, we compiled a few alternate resolutions that might appeal to you:
The Benefits of Cutting Back from Drinking (Even Just for a Month)
Dry January is a UK-based social movement in which participants abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of January. The idea behind the effort is that by taking some time away from drinking, especially after the party-heavy holiday months, participants have an opportunity to reset their relationship with alcohol and create healthier drinking patterns for the rest of the year. One month is a long enough break to reset your habits, but not so long that it feels punitive or unrealistic.
According to Self magazine, taking a month off from drinking can have a variety of health benefits, including better sleep, lower calorie intake, a more stable mood, and an improved immune system. For some participants, it’s also a great opportunity to test the waters of navigating stressful social or personal situations without alcohol.
Practicing More Positive Self-Talk
One of the simplest New Year’s resolutions could have a huge impact on your overall happiness and wellbeing. If you notice that you tend towards a pessimistic worldview, or you sometimes beat yourself up over simple mistakes, focusing on more positive self-talk could be an area of growth this year.
According to a Healthline article, positive self-talk can contribute to a variety of personal and health benefits, including enhanced performance, “improved immune function, reduced pain, better cardiovascular health, better physical well-being, reduced risk for death, and less stress and distress.” Perhaps most crucially, positive self-talk is associated with greater life satisfaction overall.
The Healthline article has information on how to identify negative self-talk patterns and replace them with healthier ways of looking at a situation. Some of the key techniques they highlight include checking in with your feelings, practicing positive affirmations, finding humor in painful situations, and surrounding yourself with positive people.
Affirmations are Key
If you notice that you tend to criticize some aspect of your personality or appearance, a small, specific New Year’s resolution might be to incorporate positive affirmations into your daily routine. When you start your day, or at a time that’s convenient for you, set a reminder on your phone to repeat an affirming message to yourself. Scheduling affirmations helps to interrupt cycles of negative thinking, and taking the time to be conscious of your thoughts and deliberate in how you talk to yourself sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Incorporating a New Hobby into Your Routine
If you’re looking to expand your social circle and gain a new skill, committing to a new hobby is a great way to start the year. So many of us lead busy, hectic lives that the idea of starting a new hobby might feel like a luxury. That said, hobbies have documented mental health benefits including stress relief, improved mood, and lowered rates of depression.
What’s more, they enrich our lives, providing new ways of looking at the world, more social connections, and a chance to indulge in fun and beauty.
According to Inc survey data, 26% of respondents listed learning a new skill or hobby as their New Year’s resolution of choice. If you aren’t in the mood to give something up, maybe look into adding something new to your routine! From art classes to hiking groups, websites like Meetup have information about hobby-related events in your hometown.