Why we always fail our New Years Resolutions (and how to fix that)

Let me guess, by Dec. 31st 2016; you’ll be a non-smoker, sober, fitter,  out of debt and eat more Quinoa.

Why do we only stick to our resolutions until about… February?

False Hope Syndrome (Polivy, 2001) is the ‘unrealistic expectation of self change’, even if a person has failed at previous attempts. New Year’s Resolutions often put too much pressure on a person to lose out on something they really enjoy (e.g. a certain type of food) and then they make themselves feel really guilty when they’ve ‘caved’. When making an unrealistic resolution, the positive impact on your life or body may be over-exaggerated and its often incredibly hard to go completely cold turkey on something that you’ve previously enjoyed or craved, you may therefore misjudge how quick or easy it is to employ your resolution straight away after January 1st.

Making New Years resolutions (even if you fail) isn’t so much of a bad thing, they help you feel in control and provide you with a sense of optimism in the early stages. Here’s some tips on how to keep going with that mindset and increase your intrinsic motivation:


  1. Make them manageable: Making multiple resolutions that you’ll definitely ‘stop this’, ‘cut out this’, ‘learn this’ and ‘master that’ will get you overwhelmed and likely to give up on them all without even attempting to have a go. Then you might feel incredibly guilty when you haven’t changed at all from the previous year (you may not have got worse, just not better). Try to think about small, positive changes that will continue to improve your wellbeing and have a happy year. Once you’ve managed a series of successful improvements, you’ll have enough faith in yourself, self-control and motivation to go further and have a go at the bigguns.
  2. Do them with friends: New Years Eve brings a cultural sense of everybody making a’fresh start’ and ‘positive changes’, so many people will be in the same boat. Report on each others’ progress and, importantly, praise small successes with each other. You may also be less inclined to give up if somebody else is rooting for you.
  3. Write them down: This may actually be the most intimidating to do and first test of challenging yourself (and first manageable step), as this makes your resolutions more permanent.
  4. Embrace modern technology: Apps are great these days, check out my Science up your Life post for some examples of trackers for various health and wellbeing malarkey. Any to record, self-regulate and maybe even notify you when you’re doing well (E.g. you can get many apps these days that record how much water you’re drinking and remind you to rehydrate).
  5. Make them to make you happier, rather than losing out on something: Why start the New Year punishing yourself? This is possibly the most important of them all. Why cut out cake completely? Everyone loves cake! Turn it round to something more like “try and have a more positive attitude”, “do more things I love”, “find more healthier food that I actually enjoy”.


I’ll be uploading another post tomorrow (three days in a row, say what!) about some resolutions to ‘make you’ happier. Have an amazing NYE!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply