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4 months ago | World Today

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Strategy: The psychology behind why we’re so bad at keeping New Year’s resolutions

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80% of us fail within six weeks.

  • About 80% of people fail to stick to their New Year's resolutions for longer than six weeks.
  • Most resolutions involve trying to be healthier in some way.
  • Psychological reasons we don't succeed include overthinking how arduous our resolutions will be, and leaving ourselves mental get-out clauses.

It's a new year, and many people will be wanted to turn over a new leaf. That's what New Year's resolutions are for — to make improvements to our lives in some way.

But they are really hard to stick to. In fact, according to one statistic, 80% of us will fail by the second week of February. A valiant effort.

A study from 2016 published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a scientific journal, investigated New Year's resolutions, and found that 55% of resolutions were health related, such as exercising more, or eating healthier. About 20% were to do with getting out of debt.

These are tricky things to do at any time of the year, let alone in the month after the holidays.

The study, led by Kaitlin Woolley from Cornell University and Ayelet Fishbach from the University of Chicago, found that participants believe that both enjoyment and importance are significant factors in whether they stick to their resolutions.

In fact, the researchers found that it was just the enjoyment factor was the only thing that mattered.

In other words, if the participants were getting immediate rewards from their new habits, they would be more likely to stick to them.

Another study, published in the Journal of Nature and Science, looked into why we are so bad at sticking to health-related goals.

It points out that only a fifth of us get the recommended amount of exercise, despite the fact we are always being told how a healthier lifestyle can lengthen our lives.

According to the author Seppo Iso-Ahola a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Maryland, the problem lies with the internal battle between doing what you want to do, and what you should do.

If you can stop yourself overthinking how awful it will be to have a salad for dinner, or to go on a run after work, you might just have a better chance of going through with it.

Last week, the Metro reported that one little word is what's holding many of us back from actually achieving our new year goals.

In her book "How to Get Sh*t Done," lifestyle coach Erin Falconer says using the word "should" is a bad idea, because it is often associated with guilt, shame and an "absence of decision."

But it also implies that whatever you are planning is a possibility, not a reality. In other words, you're giving yourself an excuse simply by saying you "should" do something, rather than you "will" do something.

So to keep yourself focused, stay away from non-committal words, try not getting yourself worried about your healthy decisions, and try and frame them in a way that you think you'll enjoy.

If it doesn't work, don't worry. There's always next year.

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Local AFP is a Reporter at Meets Media, a digital journalist who reports on World Today and some other section of our website.

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