At the beginning of every year, people from all over the world set New Year’s resolutions. For many, New Year’s resolutions are a tradition to stay focused for the upcoming year while others need help to stick to these resolutions. So, what’s the truth behind New Year’s resolutions?

The new year makes many feel like they are experiencing a fresh start. One gets the same feeling when buying a new home, redecorating a room or moving states. These feelings can make our brain think we have a blank slate and a unique opportunity to get things in order and focus. New Year’s resolutions give us something to look forward to, work harder for and help us see our goals lined up right in front of us.

It seems like every year the most common resolutions are to lose or gain weight, depending on the individual goal. With this goal in particular, a few weeks into January, we see people starting their workout routine in the gym strong, being consistent with gym attendance and genuinely pushing themselves to stay aligned with their resolutions. However, as February hits, many lose that January motivation; gym attendance starts slowing down, and resolutions start falling short. 

Why do people find it hard to follow through?

According to Piedmont Healthcare, it is hard for many to follow through with these resolutions because when you “set a resolution and begin to follow through on it, you trigger a very powerful ‘neuro-hormone’ in the brain called dopamine.” Dopamine has the strong ability of helping explicitly control the brain’s reward and pleasure systems, regulating emotional responses. When you set these resolutions, your dopamine levels are high. They eventually drop after being formed and followed through for a few weeks.

Setting resolutions makes us feel good and gives us something to look forward to and achieve. When our dopamine levels drop, so does our ability to continue to feel motivated and have the same “push” we had at the beginning of the year. Also, when setting these resolutions, many still need a plan for when and how they will achieve their goals. Remember to put a plan in place; a plan will help you stay focused and on the right track to achieve your goals. You can create your plan by writing down your goals and current schedule. Goal planning and goal setting will help you see your availability of what time you can dedicate to achieve your goals. 

What the Statistics Say:

Discover Happy Habits found a consistent trend in the highs and lows of following through with resolutions. The site says, “Of those who make a New Year’s resolution, after one week 75% are still successful in keeping it. After two weeks, the number drops to 71%. After one month, the number dropped again to 64%. And after six months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it. In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after six months.”

What Students Say: 

Several APU students shared their thoughts on New Year’s resolutions and if they’ve followed through with their own. 

“In hindsight, New Year’s resolutions are more about feelings than goals …These resolutions are often an excuse to leave bad habits in the past and start over,” said APU track and field athlete Sid Varland. “I don’t think these are intrinsically bad. However, I think the focus should be on a lifestyle change instead of a quick fix to a problem that is embedded in one’s brain.”

APU track and field athlete Tyler Howard said, “New Year’s resolutions are a great way to start the new year, but you need to start your New Year’s resolution before the New Year. This helps you start the year on your feet.”

The Reality of Following Through:

If you’re someone who constantly sets resolutions and only sometimes follows through, it is essential to look back at your previous resolutions and see where you went off track. The key to following through with New Year’s resolutions is to make specific plans for the steps needed to achieve each goal. That means factoring it into your daily schedule to see where you can align your work ethic with your busy schedule.  

It is essential to have a support system around you. Tell your family or your friends your resolutions. Having a support system around you helps you maintain motivation and remember the bigger picture.

Be kind to yourself. It can be easy to criticize ourselves when we fall short and to blame ourselves for our lack of motivation. When you bring yourself down, you never lift yourself up. Instead, it strengthens your position of defeat. Remember to constantly motivate yourself, and keep trying even when it gets complicated. 

Other vital tips for keeping a firm New Year’s resolution are to plan ahead instead of waiting until New Year’s Eve to choose one, reward yourself along the way, track your progress and focus on one resolution at a time. Remember, the only person who can stop you is yourself. So what are you waiting for? Go after those goals because it will all be worth it once you achieve them.