by Toyin Akinwande
A new year is for new beginnings, and it’s the perfect time to start making healthy decisions toward self-improvement. But as the list of resolutions gets longer and the months go by, personal goals made on New Year’s Day get lost amidst day-to-day activities and stress.
Yet according to psychologists, all it takes to make resolutions stick is small realistic goals and positive behavior.
Research from the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology showed that 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, and only 8 percent of them are successful in achieving their resolutions.
“The problem people have with keeping resolutions is that the resolutions they set are not realistic, and they didn’t break them down,” Rockville and Silver Spring psychologist Dr. Mary Alvord said.
Resolutions to lose weight, spend less and save more money, learn something new, and others based on satisfying people top the list of resolutions made yearly.
“Your resolution has to be important enough to you rather than trying to please other people,” Alvord said. “The key to keeping resolutions is to just have a few goals. If it’s too large of a goal, it’s probably not realistic.”
Faithful Ladep-Nandang, a junior psychology major, said that setting resolutions and goals has to do with commitment to consistency and proper planning.
“With goal-setting, you can’t just say you want to do something, you need to plan,” Ladep-Nandang said. “The goals we set on New Year’s [Eve] are bigger than the goals we set on a daily basis.”
Lucy Hu, a junior supply chain management major, said she makes New Year’s resolutions based on school, health and relationships.
“When you make a resolution for the new year, the idea is that you’re going to see things differently or try to do things differently,” Hu said. “But when the new [year] comes, it’s just another day. You might just become lazy or keep pushing it back.”
According to Alvord, when students expect too much and do not follow through with their plans, they feel like they’ve failed and become self-critical.
One way Alvord advises students on how to keep their resolutions for the new year is thorough motivational interviewing, a strategy psychologists use that helps people evaluate what people want at different points of their lives and how they should get to that point.
Other strategies Alvord points out include visual representation — imagining where you see yourself and how you see yourself doing the goals you set for yourself — and relaxation techniques to keep yourself calm.
College students also overlook sleeping and eating as major factors to help keep them focused.
“Sleep is undervalued as a critical way to keep up with your resolutions and keep up your grades,” Alvord said.
The American Psychiatric Association advises individuals to choose goals they can accomplish on their own, write out how they plan to accomplish their resolutions, get support from friends and family, and not be hard on themselves.
Hu said one of her New Year’s resolution is to learn to fluently speak German during her spring semester in Germany.
“When people find out I’m from America they will try to speak English with me,” Hu said. “The school I will be attending is an international school so learning German will be difficult, but I am determined to learn. Making checking points after I set the resolution to follow up and reflect on how I am doing will help.”
Ladep-Nandang said her realistic resolution is to graduate in December 2017. Optimistically, she would like to graduate with a job within her field.
“Changing behaviors is not linear,” Alvord said. “We have our ups and downs, but recognizing that and being forgiving of ourselves helps us to be less self critical and continue to work towards our resolutions.”