I’m surprised to be writing about the positive benefits of New Year’s resolutions. I stopped making them years ago, although I wrote often about what consumers could expect in the coming year. I didn’t think the resolutions were effective.
However, John Norcross, Ph.D., clinical psychology and professor at the University of Scranton, said his research studies show that New Year’s resolutions are beneficial in helping people make changes in their lives. People who make resolutions have more success in developing new habits than those who don’t make them.
Norcross was interviewed for a recent story on National Public Radio, “Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick.”
Based on his studies, he said 44 to 46 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions will be successful in six months. Those who want to make a change, but don’t make a resolution have a 0 to 4 percent success rate.
If your resolution is realistic, obtainable, and measurable, you’ll be more successful in changing your behavior, the researcher advises. For example, it’s more realistic to set a goal to lose 10 pounds than 50.
Combining two related items, such as losing weight and exercising, will work. However, never combine more than two resolutions, Norcross said. For example, if you add quit smoking to your resolutions of losing weight and exercising, it may not work.
A family can make resolutions, he said, but everyone in the family needs to agree to participate. If the kids don’t want to do it, it won’t work. As the family progresses toward its goal, positive rewards can be shared.
A buddy system, someone you can call if you begin to waiver or if you’ve made a mistake, will help you achieve your resolution. Your buddy can offer encouragement and help you get back on track.
About 70 percent of people who make resolutions find that they have a momentary slip in January. They need to realize that the first slip isn’t a fall. They can refine their action plan and get up and start again.
Norcross said it’s important to remember that a New Year’s resolution is a marathon, not a 10-yard dash. New habits are developed over time by many repeated actions, not in a few weeks of frenzied activity. And, if people aren’t successful with their resolution, they can try again next year.
“Life is a long quest for improved behavior,” he said.