Resolve to Have a Happy Year

It’s almost that time of year when nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. If you are among them, here are some tips for how you can make your desired changes finally stick.


Tip #1: Understand that resolutions can really work.

University of Scranton psychology professor John C. Norcross — author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions — has being doing research on resolutions since the early ‘90s and has found that 40 to 44 percent of resolvers succeed. So why all of the negative press about this New Year’s tradition? “It’s an unearned bad rep due to the lack of research and over-reliance on unscientific polls,” says Norcross. Instead of paying attention to these, Norcross encourages people to concentrate on the science behind behavior change.


Tip #2: Prepare for change.

Norcross says that resolvers should be serious about prepping for their resolutions. This includes the basics, like having a clear, realistic goal and an action plan that suits it. It also means having back-up plans, understanding that there may be complications along the way, and thinking about how you’ll react when hiccups do arise. It is also to your advantage to declare your goals publicly.


Tip #3: Use the buddy system… wisely.

We’ve all heard horror stories about that person who hounds on their friend or family member for not changing according to their expectations. Yet, Norcross says that social support is extremely valuable for resolvers bent on success. The key word here is “support.” Constant pessimists or people who want to overtake your road to resolution shouldn’t be considered genuine supporters and should, therefore, be avoided.


Tip #4: Change takes more than willpower.

You may have gotten a hint about this one from the preparation tip, but simply willing yourself to stop binge-watching rom-coms probably won’t work. Willpower can definitely be useful, but everyone needs a combination of different tools to help them change. Aside from the aforementioned public pledges and social support, other resolution aids include having rewards for little victories along the way and the substitution of good habits for bad (rather than simply deleting bad habits).


Tip #5: Avoid self-blame.

“The successful resolvers do not differ from the unsuccessful resolvers in the number of slips early on. It’s how they respond to it,” says Norcross. Just about everyone has some setbacks in their resolution journey, but instead of seeing these as indications of inevitable failure, Norcross says people should interpret them as a signs that they need to do a little better moving forward.