Are New Year’s Resolutions Helpful?

The start of a New Year means something different for everyone. January 1st may feel like another day to you, or it may feel like a fresh start. Some people take time around the start of a new year to set goals, called New Year’s Resolutions. A New Year’s Resolution can be about anything; some people set fitness goals, while others may spend less time on social media or add a new activity to their daily routine. The possibilities are endless! Can making a New Year’s Resolution have a negative impact on your mental health?

The answer is yes and no. John Norcross, a professor at The University of Scranton has studied the topic of New Year’s Resolutions for a long time. His data suggests that 40 to 45% of adults set goals for the new year. He also found that 40 to 46% of those people will continue to work towards their goal for at least six months. Not meeting the goals you have set for yourself can leave you feeling disappointed or frustrated with yourself, it could even affect your overall self-esteem. There are, however, steps you can take to create goals for the new year that are possible to meet.

  1. Make realistic goals. If your goal is to start reading more, start at 12 books for the year (one for each month!) instead of jumping right into the popular ’50 Books Challenge.’ Start small, and if you meet your goal early, you can always give yourself a new goal to meet.
  2. Break your goal down into smaller goals! Perhaps you want to learn how to cook in the new year. Start with committing to cooking one or two meals a week, or following recipes that do not take long to prep.
  3. Track your progress and reward your success! This year, I would like to walk more. On my desk, I have a calendar where I mark each day that I walk for at least thirty minutes. This not only tracks my progress, but it also makes me feel good to see my calendar slowly filling up with more marked days! This is a great way to keep yourself motivated.
  4. Know that you will slip up at times. You may want to walk for thirty minutes a day, but that does not mean that you will never need to skip a day.

No matter what, be patient and kind towards yourself. New Year’s Resolutions should be goals that make you feel better about yourself, not worse! Positive self talk will be the deciding factor in whether or not setting goals for the New Year becomes a positive, or negative thing in your life.

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? What helps you stay motivated?

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Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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