The Science of Creating New Year's Resolutions

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The Science of Creating New Year's Resolutions

New Year's resolutions are goals to achieve that gives us motivation to move forward in the upcoming year / Photo by Wavebreak Media Ltd via 123RF


It's the time of the year again. A lot of people are starting to wrap up their year by thanking their family and friends, apologizing to some people they have hurt, or contemplate on how they have changed for the past 12 months. This can be seen particularly on social media - people sharing their most successful moments and even their regrets in life. One thing that a lot of us would traditionally do is to make a New Year's Resolution. This list of goals or things to achieve is often used to motivate us to move forward in the upcoming year. 

Suddenly, we are excited and empowered by moving into the "New Year". Most of the time, people come up with all sorts of New Year's resolution ideas, from losing weight, quitting smoking, reading more books or even learning a new skill. However, an article by the Entrepreneur reported that only 9.2% of people have actually achieved and let go from their bad habits this year. In fact, another survey showed that by the second week of February, 80% of those who set their resolutions have already given up. Unfortunately, failing to achieve our New Year's resolutions keeps on happening every year and become one of the expected outcomes. 

Why New Year's Resolutions Fail

Coming up with a New Year's resolution is a hard thing to do, especially when you're trying to achieve many things, learn and improve new skills. However, making sure that you stay true to your resolutions is a different idea. According to an article by the Inc., the reason why most people fail to achieve those is that they are too vague, not because they are too ambitious. For instance, a person plans to go to the gym more often but doesn't have specific goals to work it out such as running for five miles each week. 

Additionally, another factor why New Year's resolutions flop is that they are not reinforced by positive principled accountability, which is defined by the New York Times bestselling book The Oz Principle as the "personal choice to rise above one's circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results." When people try to hold himself/herself accountable for delivering the results that they want to see, they are much more capable of meeting short-term goals and eventually achieving the resolutions. 

Moreover, people should view their resolutions as an ongoing dedication to positive growth and make sure you're ready to achieve lasting and sustainable change. An article by the IFL Science also added that these people might be victims of "false hope syndrome," characterized by a person’s unrealistic expectations of achieving something.

Although a 2016 survey showed that the most popular resolution for that year is to simply "enjoy life to the fullest," a study found out that people who have their New Year's resolutions often fail to find long-term happiness by achieving their goals. According to an article by the Vocativ, this can be explained by the "hedonic adaptation," a mental phenomenon that tempers our emotions over the long-term, both popping our happiness balloon and cushioning us through our most despairing moments. 

This has been prevalent to us humans which aims not only to protect ourselves from the stumbles of life but also revolutionary purpose - to keep us alert to new threats. As Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside said, "It’s good to have goals and to pursue them, but our happiness shouldn’t depend on them."

Creating New Year's Resolution Based on Science

Achieving your New Year's Resolution is not just about simply listing your goals for the upcoming year, you also have to change your thinking and behavior. And this is where science can help. According to the Business Insider, science can help people to achieve their goals by using specific and science-backed resolutions. In this way, a person can boost his/her chances of successfully changing themselves. 

For instance, if you're planning to lose weight and have a healthier body, you can start by fixing your sleeping habits. In fact, previous studies published last 2017 showed that people who have more disrupted sleep have higher levels of proteins associated with Alzheimer's and dementia in the brain. Experts recommend going to bed and getting up at the same time every night can improve your sleep. 

Also, a review from the faculty members at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found out that receiving positive feedback cause people, especially who are new to a particular set of tasks or goals, are more likely to adhere to a new goal. It would also help to figure out a targeted exercise resolution if you're planning to exercise more often. Exercising has physical and mental health benefits that can improve your sleep and boost your mood. 

Additionally, if you wanted to be more productive, you might have to consider not being too workaholic and learn to take breaks. In their book entitled "Peak Performance: Elevate your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive with the New Science of Success" published in 2017 by performance experts Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, they wrote that in order for people to be more productive at work, they should learn how to rest. 


Changing ones thinking and behavior can help in achieving their goals / Photo by Vesna Cvorovic via 123RF





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