One of the most exciting parts of entering the new year is making new year’s resolutions. While there’s a lot of social pressure to become slimmer, financially successful, and better looking, most people are attracted to the idea because they believe it gives them a fresh start.
Unfortunately, keeping your resolutions past February is trickier than it seems. Keep reading to learn more about resolutions and start the new year off right.
Why Do We Make Resolutions?
In the past, ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods to stay in their favors which marks the origins of resolutions we know today. Modern resolutions are a promise we make to ourselves in hopes of improving our lives. Humans have a tendency towards self-growth and resolutions are sometimes seen to erase errors from the previous year.
Why Is Making Resolutions Good for You?
New year’s resolutions are often more of a trend than a genuine desire to improve some aspects of your life. So why should you make resolutions in the first place?
- If you’re successful, you’re taking a step towards positive change
Making a new year’s resolution is the first step to becoming a better version of yourself. While it’s possible to set goals and achieve them any time of the year, we tend to be more optimistic when it comes to new year’s resolutions because of the illusion of starting from zero. The more hopeful and motivated you are, the more likely it is that you’ll stick to your promise and make positive changes in your life.
- It can make you feel more confident about the future
Setting your goals early on will give you a sense of security. While you have no way of knowing what the new year will bring, preparing a plan can make you feel in control. Most new year’s resolutions are a long-term commitment that will map out how some of your year will look like.
- It can boost your mood
The reason so many people wait for a new year to set goals is because they believe it gives them a fresh start. The allure of a clean slate makes them more likely to fantasize about possible outcomes, which is an instant reward and a mood boost.
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- It’s a great opportunity to reflect on your life
With so many life responsibilities and commitments, most of us don’t have the time for reflection. Luckily, coming up with a new year’s resolution forces you to evaluate where you are in life and decide where you want to be.
Why Is Keeping Resolutions Challenging?
Whether you see new year’s resolutions as a fun tradition or an opportunity to improve your life, having enough willpower to keep the resolutions might be challenging.
- People tend to set goals that are too ambitious and unrealistic
People who make new year’s resolutions tend to align them with an idealized version of their future instead of setting goals according to how successful or unsuccessful they were in the past. Additionally, most people suffer from a false hope syndrome that refers to having unrealistic expectations about the speed and outcome of self-change. This is partly businesses’ fault as they often offer training programs that promise instant change. For example, gyms might trick you into thinking that you can lose a significant amount of weight in just a few weeks.
- The tendency towards all-or-nothing thinking
Setting unrealistic goals often comes hand-in-hand with being too perfectionistic. A lot of people expect to be able to fully commit to the goals they set and might get discouraged if they aren’t at their best the whole time.
For example, a person who’s trying to lose weight might give up on their training plan just because they skipped one exercise or indulged in an unhealthy meal. They might decide they already failed and there’s no point in sticking to their promise.
- It’s harder than it looks
Committing to new year’s resolutions is more than just adding a few extra activities to your routine. It often requires you to change your habits which can only happen gradually and isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
For example, if you’re hoping to lose weight, it’s not enough to commit to exercising. You might have to analyze the role food has in your life, learn not to rely on it when you’re dealing with difficult emotions and prepare a special diet. Only once you eliminate habits that are in the way of change, can you start working on creating new positive ones.
- You expect other positive outcomes
While our resolutions tend to be straightforward, we also subconsciously hope that each resolution will bring a secondary outcome. For example, if you want to lose weight, you might not only want to look better but also attract a future partner or be more successful at job interviews. If you can’t see a positive change straight away, you’re likely to give up.
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- Your resolutions might have nothing to do with your values
While social media tells you that you should lose weight, include yoga in your routine and travel the world, is that really what you want? What other people want won’t necessarily make you happy. A resolution should come from a desire to live a fulfilling life that can only be genuine if it aligns with your values.
How To Keep Your New Year's Resolutions
If you’ve ever made a new year’s resolution that you couldn’t keep, chances are you didn’t prepare well enough to follow through.
Here’s how you can keep your new year’s resolutions this time:
- Identify your values
Values are what should guide your choices to ensure you live a happy, meaningful life. To connect with what matters to you, imagine yourself in 10 years and try to find a value that corresponds with each scenario.
For example, if you see yourself travelling the world, one of your values might be adventure or challenge. You can also think of people you admire the most and what inspires you about them or take an online test that will generate a list of values based on your answers.
- Keep it simple but detailed
It’s human nature to want to achieve things as soon as possible and often without much effort. Unfortunately, setting goals that are too ambitious will only put you under a lot of pressure and add unnecessary stress to your life. Try to reduce your list to the top three which you can then divide into detailed steps.
- Be realistic
Developing a consistent routine doesn’t happen overnight. Once you’ve broken your goals into smaller ones, you should gradually add a new activity to your schedule. For example, if you’re hoping to lose weight, you should introduce healthy meals into your diet first and then reduce the amount of sugary food you eat. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stick to your initial plan. There’s no shame in reducing the amount of work you can put in.
- Find ways to motivate yourself
You can track your progress by keeping a diary where you document each activity and talk about what works and what doesn’t. You should also reward yourself for even the smallest accomplishments because nothing can motivate you more than success.
- Find a support network
Finding like-minded people who understand your journey is another great way to boost your motivation. Sharing your goals and experiences with others will make you feel more supported and allow you to discuss the most challenging parts of sticking to resolutions. You can either reach out to friends or find a support group online.
Examples of Resolutions That Can Improve Your Mental and Physical Health
Even though the pandemic might have taught you not to take your health for granted, it’s easy to follow the trends and focus on more superficial goals. If you want to do something different this year, here are some examples that can inspire you:
- Putting yourself first
Putting yourself first is the key to healthy relationships and becoming a happier person in general. If you value other people’s needs above yours, you might become more invested in their lives than in your own. The easiest way to start prioritizing yourself is self-care. Try the no-zero days approach and set a goal to do something nice for yourself every single day. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming or special. You can simply treat yourself to nice food, listen to your favorite music or have a bath.
- Becoming self-compassionate
Practicing self-compassion will not just ensure you commit to your goals in the long run and bounce back if you fail but improve your mental wellbeing. The easiest way to start being kinder to yourself is by reframing your thoughts. How many times do you call yourself names for not being at your best? How many times do you blame yourself for failing? Whenever a negative thought arises, try to make it more realistic.
For example, instead of telling yourself that you’re worthless because you didn’t pass a test, tell yourself that it’s okay not to succeed sometimes and that this doesn’t reflect your worth. Treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend.
- Letting go
Learn how to forgive not just other people but also yourself. Dwelling on the past will only affect your productivity and prevent you from achieving your goals. To make this easier, create a positive mantra that you can repeat to yourself every day.
For example, “I’ll get where I need to be in life” or “Every bad experience is a good lesson.” Additionally, you can practice mindfulness which aims to make you feel more grounded. You can learn how to stay in the present moment by focusing on your breathing and observing your thoughts and emotions without engaging in them. The more present you are, the less focused you’ll be on your past.
- Less procrastination, more focus
Procrastination is the biggest enemy of success. To manage your time better, you should get rid of distractions first. One of the most common distractions is social media which often prevents you from fully focusing on tasks at hand.
The new year is an ideal time to try a digital detox, which you can read more about it in one of our previous articles. Additionally, you should be smart about your to-do list. Instead of doing tasks that are the easiest first, start from the most time-consuming ones.
- Learning a new skill
Learning a new skill trains your mind to deal with new challenges and helps you improve your cognitive functions such as concentration which are essential if you want to be more productive. Additionally, finding a new hobby can be therapeutic. Humans aren’t meant to just spend time working and then sitting in front of the TV.
We need a challenge that can give us a sense of satisfaction but reduce stress at the same time. If you join a new community, you’ll have a chance to meet like-minded people who will make you feel more connected and supported, which has been associated with better mental wellbeing. 
- Taking care of your finances
While you might have no desire to travel the world or become a billionaire, everyone needs financial stability. Money problems are frequently associated with chronic stress and mental health conditions that can stand in the way of living a fulfilling life.
To start managing your finances, you can set a monthly budget for yourself. The key is to start small and become mindful of the way you spend money. Track your finances and figure out if you overspend on food or if you could save on something else.
- Daily exercise
Exercise does wonders for both your mental and physical health. You don’t have to start from a high impact activity or commit to achieving new training goals every week. Even activities that require little exertion like yoga can be a great overall improvement.
About the Contributor
Joanna Cakala is a multilingual writer based in the UK. Combining a degree in Psychology and passion for writing, she started her freelance journey penning articles on mental health.