The scientific way to do your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year! And start of a new decade to boot. New Year’s Resolutions and decade-long epic accomplishments are on many minds.


Yet, as Richard Wiseman discovered in 2007, only 12% of people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. Soooo, that’s an 88% fail rate.

What happens is that people either hit an initial setback and give up immediately (more common in women) or have only a vague aspiration of what they want to do, and therefore end up mystified as to how to achieve it (the main problem for men). Luckily, there are some quick and easy ways to solve this.

If you’re prone to giving up, then tell other people about your resolution and ask them to keep you accountable. And remember, even if you do slip up once or twice, you can always pick it up again later. In fact, some research has found that if you intentionally allow yourself to slip up (ie. creating a goal of eating healthy only 5 days out of 7) then you’re more likely to actually stick to it!

If your issue is the vague dream problem, then make a specific goal (think the SMART goal strategy) and think of a small and practical step that you can take towards it. Rather than setting a resolution to be “fit and healthy”, try going for a walk after work every evening. It’s a little step, rather than trying to do everything at once.


But don’t get caught up in going too slowly … starting with a bang and dedicating yourself to thoroughly completing your goal throughout all of January is a great strategy to kickstart yourself into the rest of the year, compared to taking it slowly and dropping out by February 1st!

This helps you build a habit (remember the 21/90 rule- 21 days to form a habit, 90 to form a lifestyle) that can continue longterm. So pick a small habit to change (whether that’s a bad habit like drinking too much fizzy drink, or wanting to start learning a language 5 minutes a day) and try to attach it to a pre-existing habit, such as doing your language practice when you check social media in the morning.


But perhaps you’re one of the few who can’t think of any New Year’s Resolutions. Luckily for you, ScienceAlert has already put together a science-backed list of the ones that’d really help you. They suggest: getting enough sleep, exercising just a little more, cutting down on sugar, giving yourself more breaks, reading more often, or just setting aside time to spend with friends and family.


So enjoy 2020, the new decade, and stick around for more great science to come!


Also, if you’re interested in reading more of the brain science behind setting goals and achieving them, then check out this post!

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