Psychology Melbourne Blog

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Seven tips for sticking to your New Year’s Resolutions

Edited by Jill Wright,

Did you make a New Year’s resolution last week? Are you full of determination to make that change stick, or are you already feeling your will-power is waning?

If you really do want to make a fresh start or break an old behaviour pattern in 2016, Psychology Melbourne clinical psychologist Scott Barnett offers several tips to strengthen your resolve.

The good news is that a vast amount of psychological research on behaviour change suggests that, contrary to general opinion, many people do succeed in sticking to their resolutions. Indeed, the act of making a New Year’s resolution itself increases the likelihood of change.

The New Year provides a valuable opportunity for self-improvement and for taking measures to enhance the quality of your life. Common resolutions include losing weight, starting exercise, stopping smoking, and reducing alcohol use or even giving it up entirely. You may also want to find a new job or develop more satisfying and fulfilling relationships.

So what strategies produce successful behaviour change? Here are seven you might want to try:

  • Create specific, realistic and achievable New Year’s Resolutions. While it seems obvious, many people can set unrealistic goals that may be too general, vague or aim too high.
  • Write down your goals so you can go back and review your progress. You may also consider setting electronic reminders on a smart phone for example. It is also helpful to write down the benefits of sticking to your resolutions to help you refresh your memory and maintain your motivation and commitment to change.  
  • Develop a specific action plan that describes the steps involved in achieving your goals. All resolutions can be broken down into smaller achievable steps. This makes the change process simpler and less overwhelming and provides opportunities to celebrate small successes along the way.
  • While time frames may seem helpful they can add unnecessary pressure and expectations, which could lead to disappointment and undermine our motivation and commitment if we fail to meet the deadline. Resolutions are generally for life so consider having an open-ended and ongoing time frame.
  • Share your goals with the people around you and enlist a support person (or two or three of them) to whom you can talk throughout the behaviour change process.
  • Reward yourself along the way. This creates a positively reinforcing association between the small behavioural changes you have already made and helps you to stick to your goal.
  • Believe in yourself. If you have resolved to make a change in your life, part of you knows you can do it. This is the part that you need to foster and grow. With each positive step along the way, your self-belief will also continue to increase.

There are many other strategies that help us to achieve our New Year’s resolutions. So talk with your friends and family and remain open to advice that you may find helpful. 

If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help from a qualified psychologist who can help you tap the mental techniques that can make your goals more attainable. A psychologist might also help you recognise any unhelpful beliefs, thoughts or behaviours that could interfere with attaining and maintaining your resolutions. Good luck from the team at Psychology Melbourne!    

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.