New Year’s Resolutions

Why New Year’s Resolutions?

Though the practice of New Year’s resolutions have existed for thousands of years, New Year’s resolutions have become more common in the last couple hundred years. As we understand it in our culture, New Year’s resolutions usually center around our own self-improvement as we strive to become the best versions of ourselves.

What does research say?

In 2020, 1,066 people from the general public participated in a research study that found the most popular resolutions pertaining to physical health, weight loss, and eating habits; in a one year follow-up, around half of participants considered themselves successful with their resolutions (Oscarsson et al., 2020). Interestingly, this study also found that those with approach-oriented goals reported more success in sustaining their resolutions than those with avoidance-oriented goals (Oscarsson et al., 2020). Though this is merely one study, it provides some insight as to what some of our New Year’s resolution journeys look like.

How do we achieve our goals?

Many of us report not sustaining our New Year’s resolutions and this may be in part due to setting large, lofty goals that become overwhelming to us. We can still set big goals for ourselves and be successful, but the way we approach these goals may hinder or help us. A helpful way to approach our goals is through tangible, smaller steps that seem less overwhelming to us. These small steps encourage us to keep moving forward as we hit smaller milestones in our New Year’s resolution journey. This can be done with the help of goal-tracking apps that can be downloaded on smartphones or through a goal journal.

We can also plan ahead and put good thought into our intentions for ourselves in the New Year. We can spend time in December thinking about goals that would make us feel good to work towards and that are feasible and realistic for us. It may also help us to talk things over with supportive friends and family. Even mental health professionals can be a valuable resource when considering New Year’s resolutions and can be a sounding board for our ideas. Especially for New Year’s resolutions concerning substance use, food, or mental health, it may be especially helpful to discuss with a healthcare professional; healthcare professionals can help advise ways to meet our goals in ways that are safe and healthy for us.


Oscarsson, M., et al., (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from