The psychology behind achieving your new year's resolutions
03 January 2022 | written by Dr Robin Hart
A new year is a new beginning, allowing us to wipe the slate clean and begin again.
Often, this means leaving old habits behind and creating new ones, and what better way to motivate yourself than joining the masses who will be pursuing their new year's resolutions too!
When the clock strikes midnight on 1st January and fireworks are high in the sky, there is a motivating and inspiring energy in the air.
With everyone else chasing their goals, this might be just the right push to make the change you've been wanting to make.
What do you want to change in 2022?
What will your priorities be?
A 2017 Swedish study found that 70% of people have resolutions related to their physical wellbeing, 10% of people have resolutions related to self improvement and 5% aim to improve their psychological health.
However, in 2020 it was found that only 55% of people considered themselves successful in sustaining their resolutions 1 year later.
Change can be hard to achieve and to do so we must force ourselves out of old habitual routines that often feel comfortable to us.
Whatever it is you choose to strive towards, Companion wants you to be successful in your goals.
Discover below what you can do to make sure you're in the 55%.
Face the fear of change
The transtheoretical model of change suggests that, ideally, we need to go through three stages before we achieve our goal: precontemplation, contemplation and preparation.
The precontemplation stage is the fuzzy period of time before you commit to change.
Perhaps you have passing thoughts of change but don't consider it much further than this, or you put it off.
The contemplation stage is when you really begin to acknowledge and accept change is necessary. At this stage you may begin exploring ways you can make this change.
This is often when anxiety and doubt creep in, causing you to question whether you can even achieve this change.
During this stage, it's important to define your goals and really focus on why you want to make a change. Keeping the need for change and your goals at the forefront of your mind will help you face up to and work through any anxiety and self doubt you're feeling.
Clear preparation will help to motivate you.
The preparation stage is where you can start to plan how you will action your change whilst breaking it down into manageable steps.
Doran, Miller and Cunningham coined SMART goals, standing for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Multiple pieces of research have found that goals which meet these requirements are much more likely to be achieved.
Make sure to consider this when preparing for your own process of change.
You can also prepare how to support and encourage yourself to keep going by drawing inspiration from James Clear's 'the four laws' of building new habits.
Prepare a reminder of the new change you'd like to make and the reason why you're pursuing this goal. Next, identify ways to make the change appealing, make each step towards your goal small and easy and make sure to reward yourself.
Gain social support and hold yourself accountable
Mountains of research has shown that one of the best predictors of behaviour change is having positive social support.
New Year is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the multitude of others chasing their new year's resolutions too!
Tell the people in your life what behaviour you're changing and why, and let them know how they can help you. Not only will this promote much needed support, but will also keep you accountable on your journey of change.
Surround yourself with like minded individuals who are pursuing a similar goal to you, if there's no one in real life who is doing this, social media may be a good resource to find a New Year resolutions companion.
Action and maintenance.
The final three steps of the transtheoretical model of change are: action, maintenance and finally reaching goals and relapse.
With each milestone you reach, reward yourself for your progress, whether it's a long soak in the bath, fresh flowers or buying yourself a gift, this will keep your motivation high and give you something to strive towards.
Remember, making change isn't linear, so it's normal to face obstacles and experience setbacks. Despite it being normal, it can feel demoralising.
So, what's important is how you handle these setbacks.
Take yourself back to your plan, remind yourself of why you're doing this and consult your peers for support.
Evaluate why the set back happened, by accepting it and raising your awareness of obstacles, you give yourself a much better chance for successful change in the future.
Notice any negative thoughts that undermine your confidence, then categorise, challenge and reframe them.
Take a breath, begin again and before you know it these new changes will gradually become effortless and integrated into your life.
To find out more about the transtheoretical model and how to achieve and maintain change, make sure to check out our new guide, free for the whole of January - Initiating Change.