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Do this one thing to keep your New Year’s resolutions, research says

How we phrase New Year’s resolutions is key to success, world’s largest, most comprehensive study on the topic claims.

Fundamental Research icon Fundamental Research

Go on a diet or exercise more? Spend more time with family and friends? Work less, play more? According to findings published in the journal ‘PLOS ONE’, it’s not what your resolution is, but how you formulate it that will make the difference.

It’s not the what, but the how

“It was found that the support given to the participants did not make much of a difference when it came down to how well participants kept their resolutions throughout the year,” commented study co-author Per Carlbring, professor of psychology at Stockholm University, in a news release. “What surprised us were the results on how to phrase your resolution.” A team of researchers at Sweden’s Stockholm and Linköping universities analysed resolutions made by 1 066 people at the end of 2017. The most popular resolutions involved physical health, weight loss and change of eating habits. They separated participants into three groups of people who received no support, some support or extended support. The subjects were monitored monthly during the year to determine how dedicated they were to their resolutions.

Want to stick to your resolution? Frame it positively

Resolutions referred to as approach goals (try to take up a new habit or introduce something new) had a higher success rate than avoidance goals (quit or avoid something). After a 1-year follow-up, those with approach-oriented goals (59 %) were much more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals (47 %). Overall, 55 % of responders considered themselves successful in continuing their resolutions. The group that received some support was the most successful of the three. Prof. Carlbring explained: “In many cases, rephrasing your resolution could definitely work. For example, if your goal is to stop eating sweets in order to lose weight, you will most likely be more successful if you say ‘I will eat fruit several times a day’ instead. You then replace sweets with something healthier, which probably means you will lose weight and also keep your resolution. You cannot erase a behaviour, but you can replace it with something else. Although, this might be harder to apply to the resolution ‘I will quit smoking’, which is something you might do 20 times a day.” “New Year’s resolutions are important and have gotten an undeserved bad reputation when they might actually be an incentive to positive and important changes in people’s lives,” concluded Prof. Carlbring. The study suggests that New Year’s resolutions should continue to be explored as a potentially effective approach to changing behaviour.


New Year’s resolution, resolution, New Year’s, support, approach, avoidance