New Year’s resolutions are part of the turn of the year like the Christmas tree is part of Christmas. Why are they good? And how do we actually accomplish our goals?

No year ends without making good New Year’s resolutions. At least this is the opinion of 35 % of the Swiss people as shown by a representative survey by Intervista. Others have discontinued the ritual after failing – or they have never done it to start with.

Our resolution is to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. And we will show you how we can all manage to positively influence the new year and start afresh thanks to good resolutions…

ziele für 2023

What is the purpose of making New Year’s resolutions?

During the “quieter days” around Christmas, we tend to reflect about life more extensively. Am I content? What would I like to change? This brings unfulfilled goals and aspirations to the foreground. Inside us, good resolutions grow which let us believe in something. They help to leave the past behind and to look ahead optimistically. We plan to do things even if the chances of success are slim.

“The turn of the year marks a threshold. It gives direction and creates a temporal distance. The new year seems far away – and this makes it seemingly easier for us to deal with a challenge.”

Marie Hennecke, Professor of Psychology

Some “classic” New Year’s resolutions also have a special value for our health. For example, those who quit smoking, exercise more, keep their normal weight and drink only little alcohol, reduce their risk of sustaining a cardiovascular disease (e.g. a stroke), cancer or lung disease considerably. According to WHO, these non-communicable diseases are responsible for 80 % (!) of the deaths in the European region.

The classics among the New Year’s resolutions

Even though most resolutions are soon forgotten, setting up New Year’s resolutions has become sort of a popular sport. After the extraordinary past years during the pandemic, war and energy crisis, the resolutions have shifted. According to Statista, the following resolutions for 2023 rank highest in Germany:

49 %   Eat a healthier diet

48 %   Get more exercise

46 %   Spend less money

43 %   Spend more time with family / friends

36 %   Lose weight

26 %   Reduce spending on living costs (e.g., food, energy)

24 %   Do more for the environment

20 %   Quit smoking

18 %   Drink less alcohol

18 %   Less stress in the office

18 %   Spend less time on social media

15 %   Show better performance on the job

7 %     Become vegetarian / vegan

5 %     Other

1 %     Do not know

Less and less people make resolutions

Although there are no reliable statistics, the trend is obvious: Less and less people make serious New Year’s resolutions. In the age group between 14 and 29, every second person consciously sets goals for the new year. The older the age group, the less do New Year’s resolutions mean for them: Only 37 % of the persons between 30 – 44 years and only one third of the above 45-year-olds establish New Year’s Resolutions.

Our Facebook survey within the wheelchair group ‘Rollstuhl-Gruppe Schweiz’ draws a clear picture: Of the 49 participants, 63 % don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. A share of 26 % is working on their visions and goals – and is living in the moment. Generally, it seems, living consciously in the here and now is considered helpful. Especially if life gives you lemons sometimes. In this case, the resolutions of two of the group members are significative: “My goal: to stay alive for another year.” and “one year without pain would be nice, falling in love, finding a job and remaining healthy.”

umfrage facebook gruppe neujahrsvorsätze

Resolutions versus daily grind

“Only” wanting something is not enough to change one’s behavior sustainably. Often it takes only a few weeks before our stamina and motivation lessen. According to a Statista survey, only every fifth person follows through with their good resolutions. 27 % of the participants make it at least for two months, however, for the majority the New Year’s resolutions last no more than a month – for 3 % the resolutions are history after only a few hours.

And it would not even be necessary to “nix” all those good resolutions: It takes only 21 days until the body and mind have adapted to the new circumstances and routines. However, despite all the enthusiasm with which the New Year’s resolutions were made, most of the time the “power of habit” prevails.

“Good is the resolution. But the fulfillment is difficult.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How to stick to your “own promises”?

The problem of failure often occurs due to the resolutions themselves: They may not be well defined, too ambitious – or simply not important enough. Many goals are not thought through or the requirements necessary to reach those goals are underestimated.

Only “smart” goals lead to success: New Year’s resolutions must be defined in a way that they are specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and can be timed. Instead of “I want to lose weight”, the resolution should be: “By March 31, 2023 (timed), I will reduce my current weight by approximately 1 kilo (measurable, realistic, attractive) by working out three times (specific).”

If we are unsuccessful, we get demotivated quickly. But: We cannot get rid of “one’s weaker self”. It is important to not let yourself get demotivated by such fallbacks but to embrace them as an opportunity. What can I do differently to make it work? Without a plan, most of the resolutions don’t work.

list of goals

Also the clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and professor of psychology, John C. Norcross has done extensive research on the topic of New Year’s resolutions. His tips and the right strategy help to actually follow through with one’s New Year’s resolutions:

  • Set achievable and attractive goals that are fun.
  • Look for resolutions that have a high priority or which are motivated by a great psychological strain.
  • Reduce the number of resolutions.
  • Use positive language when you draft the resolutions – also when you think or talk about them.
  • Write down the resolutions and stick them somewhere visible, e.g. on post-its.
  • Develop a concrete action plan.
  • Be optimistic that you can follow through with the resolution despite the occasional mishap. Allow for relapses and make a “plan B”
  • Share your decision publicly and get support, e.g. from family members or friends.
  • Begin immediately and with enthusiasm.
  • Make note of your progress.
  • Set up your environment in a way that makes it easier for you instead of impeding you.
  • Be proud of the successes you achieved and reward yourself – for motivation.
  • ... and don’t forget that reasonable changes require time.

Truly good resolutions that everyone can achieve

  1. Smile more often
  2. Surround yourselves by people who are good for you
  3. Make compliments
  4. Reward yourselves – and every day and also for small things

What experiences have you made with New Year’s resolutions? Maybe we have motivated you (again) to set your own goals. We are looking forward to reading about your successes and wish you all a positive new year …

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