New Year's resolutions too hard for most to keep

A hand holds a lit sparkler

writer icon Vera P. Jensen     ISB   |   Culture     🕐 02. Jan. 2019

Every year on January 1st, millions of people around the world decide on their New Year’s resolutions. From promises to quit smoking, to take care of the environment and recycle more, people take a moment to reflect and resolve to better themselves and the world around them.

Common resolutions
In Sweden, one in eight men and one in five women make a New Year’s resolution. For women some common resolutions are to eat healthily, start working out and to stress less. For men stress is less of a concern and working out is often favoured. 

Other popular new years resolutions include giving up smoking and snus, to always say “hello” to people, and to wear a bicycle helmet. 

Rates of success
In a study run by Stockholm and Linköping University, 1 000 participants shared their New Year’s resolutions and documented their progress over the course of a year.

Participants were placed into three groups at random. Each group had a different level of support, with the first group receiving regular tips and advice, as well as regular reminders. The second group received less support and advice, and the third received no advice or support at all.

Improving health is a priority
The study showed that roughly 70% of the participants had made a New Year’s resolution related to their health. Following that, the next most common resolution was to find ways of bettering oneself.

Gerhard Andersson, Professor of Clinical Psychology, noted that the way people choose resolutions and how they value health is “culturally contingent”. That is to say, it is determined by the culture and society one lives in.

Not that many succeed
Although no official results have been made available yet, an article from Linköpings University found that it is “far from all that have succeeded in carrying [their resolutions] out”.

Andersson explained that a good way to ensure a New Year’s resolution's success is to tell others about it. This creates accountability which can be a driving force, keeping the resolution strong when the going gets tough. 

Previous studies have shown that it takes an average of 66 days to break bad habits or to create new ones. Introducing a change of environment can help to increase ones success, but ultimately it takes two months of sheer determination until new behaviour becomes part of established routine.

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