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Do New Year’s Resolutions Actually Work?

Behavioral change is difficult. And during this time of the year, many people are trying to create change via New Year’s Resolutions. But do they actually work? Yes, they can. But, that depends on how the resolution was structured and how we are targeting the change.


Most people have said some version of the following statement: “I’m going to be healthier this year.” That statement is inherently flawed; it isn’t operationalized. What does “healthier” mean? Are we trying to gain or lose weight? Do we want to lift more weights or run faster? In order to take action, we must first specifically define our goal.


Now, let’s move into the practical. Have you ever tried to motivate yourself to exercise at 5 am? Imagine it’s a cold winter morning and your alarm goes off. Your workout shoes are sitting by your bedroom door. Your (warm) exercise clothes are folded in a pile, next to your shoes. And you have a protein shake in the fridge for after your exercise. Hopefully, all of these changes fit into an even more specific goal such as “I’ll exercise three times per week at 5 AM for 45 minutes in 2024.” But most importantly, the person behind this setup has increased their chances of following through on today’s goal (and thus ultimately being successful in their resolution).


Why? Friction. Friction is everything. Take for example, a holiday candy jar. It seems benign. Filled with individually wrapped chocolates, the jar allows us to grab a quick treat when we think about it or encounter it. Now imagine the same candy, in a bag, in a drawer, with a clip on it, behind a healthier snack. We’ve added healthy friction (if our goal is to decrease our candy consumption). While this concept of modifying friction to support behavioral change isn’t novel, we tend to dismiss it in our daily lives. If you are motivated to make healthy behavioral changes this year, consider how you are thinking about and approaching your goals.


Ultimately, you are the expert on yourself and will know how to best set goals for yourself. If you’re interested in better understanding how evidence-based therapeutic approaches could help you, please reach out to Roswell Psychology today for a complimentary consultation.

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