It’s a brand new year and New Year’s resolutions are made by many people.
They can be hard to manage, but research shows that one way to succeed is possible – to rephrase your resolution.
For the end result, how you word your resolution is of great importance.
You will have a better chance of achieving your objectives if you rephrase your resolution from “I will stop/avoid” to “I will start”.
This is one of the findings reached in the biggest analysis of New Year’s resolutions in the world.
The thesis was published in the journal PLOS ONE in December 2020.
The research was based on resolutions made at the end of 2017 by 1066 individuals and was performed in collaboration between Stockholm University and the University of Linköping.
The task of formulating their own resolutions was offered to participants in the study and they were then divided into three separate classes.
Throughout the year, the three groups received varying quantities of funding – no support at all, some support, and extended support.
Throughout the year, participants were monitored each month.
“It turned out that when it came to how well participants held their commitments throughout the year, the support participants got did not make a difference.
What shocked us were the effects of the resolution’s formulation, says Professor Per Carlbring of Stockholm University’s Department of Psychology.
Those with the highest success rate were participants who proposed a “approach goal”.
In this case, an approach aim is a resolution in which you attempt to develop a new habit or incorporate into your life something new. “avoidance goals,” resolutions relating to avoiding or giving up something, proved to be less effective.
But to be efficient, is it that easy to simply reword your resolution?
Rewording your resolution will certainly work in certain situations.
For instance, if your aim is to avoid consuming sweets in order to lose weight, instead of saying ‘I will eat fruit many times a day,’ you will more likely be more effective. You can then replace sweets with something healthy, which will also mean that you can lose weight and sustain your resolve as well. You will not remove a habit, but you can replace it with something else.
But it could be harder with the ‘I’m going to stop smoking’ pledge, so you could do it 20 times a day,’ says Per Carlbring.
Martin Oscarsson, Per Carlbring, Gerhard Andersson, and Alexander Rozental, December 9, 2020, PLOS ONE.DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.02340977 Reference: “A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals”
About the survey
The world’s biggest longitudinal study of more than 1000 participants on New Year’s resolutions.
The research was carried out over a span of one year, with follow-ups every month.
Physical health, weight loss, and improving eating habits were the most common resolutions (see chart).
Resolutions developed as so-called “approach goals,” are more likely to be effective than resolutions to give up/avoid something, so-called “avoidance goals.” i.e. to start something/adopt new behaviors.