NEWS Mental Health News Lots of People Give Up on New Year's Resolutions, and That's Okay By Elizabeth Millard Elizabeth Millard LinkedIn Elizabeth Millard is a freelance journalist specializing in health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 12, 2021 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Daniella Amato Fact checked by Daniella Amato Daniella Amato is a biomedical scientist and fact-checker with expertise in pharmaceuticals and clinical research. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Lilly Roadstones / Getty Images Key Takeaways A new study suggests most people give up their resolutions quickly and repeat resolutions in future years.For healthy lifestyle changes, experts suggest moving away from the resolution model if it’s not working for you and focus on smaller goals instead.The first step for many goals, no matter what they are, should be to think about your reasons, which helps to bolster motivation. Most people abandon New Year’s resolutions within the first month and then make the same resolutions all over again the following year, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers surveyed nearly 200 people in the U.K. and Australia over a two-month period around the start of the new year, asking them to list their biggest resolution and how committed they were to sticking to that change. in a follow-up survey, that initial optimism had waned. Even those who predicted they would be tenacious in keeping their resolution abandoned the effort as much as those who had lower expectations for themselves. Resolutions that focused mainly on healthier eating and exercise tended to be the most likely to get repeated over again, but the research did not find that re-setting that goal increased the likelihood of success. However, one bright spot was that those who said they were more flexible about their goals reported higher levels of wellbeing, even if they gave up on those resolutions. Getting Flexible Previous research backs up the importance of flexibility in setting goals, according to study co-author Joanne Dickson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Edith Cowan University in Australia. For example, a study in the journal Age and Ageing found that older people who are more flexible in adapting their goals tend to do better in reaching them. They also report higher levels of life satisfaction and lower depression as well. Joanne Dickson, PhD Flexible goal adjustment includes a capacity to view difficulties with composure and a degree of detachment while adapting your approach based on life situations. — Joanne Dickson, PhD “Flexible goal adjustment includes a capacity to view difficulties with composure and a degree of detachment while adapting your approach based on life situations,” says Dickson. That means you can eat healthily and still have cake at your child’s birthday party without feeling like you’ve sabotaged your goals, for instance. Another important finding in the recent study is that goals geared toward positive wellbeing—rather than externally driven—tended to be more successful. In other words, if you’re trying to exercise because you feel you should, or because that’s what your Instagram feed seems to imply, it would be tougher to keep that going compared to exercising because it makes you feel more energetic and less stressed. Are You Making a New Year's Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In First Steps Rather than waiting until a fresh year rolls around, it’s helpful to set smaller, achievable goals throughout the year, suggests strength and conditioning coach Kourtney Thomas, C.S.C.S. Being flexible is important, but so is understanding why you’re setting that goal in the first place. “Peel back the layers and get a firm idea of your ‘why,’ so you understand why this particular goal matters to you,” she says. “Your motivation should come from a place of autonomy, and then the execution of that why will naturally follow.” That could apply to any type of resolution, from quitting smoking, reframing your relationship with food, or exercising consistently to being a more attentive parent or simply being more mindful. Another big step, Thomas adds, is to think about what you actually enjoy. If you hate the gym and loathe running but you love walking and gardening, then there’s your movement practices. Kourtney Thomas, CSCS What feels good, like something you want to do, not something that will turn into a ‘should’ type of activity? Do that. Then, take every opportunity to keep doing that. — Kourtney Thomas, CSCS “What feels good, like something you want to do, not something that will turn into a ‘should’ type of activity?” she says. “Do that. Then, take every opportunity to keep doing that.” Taking notes can also be helpful, she adds, since you can see a sense of progress you may have missed otherwise. Remove the Pressure of Resolutions and Set Realistic Goals Ditch the Guilt If you made a New Year’s resolution—or several of them—and abandoned it well before Groundhog Day, you’re obviously not alone. But you still might feel guilty about it. “This is a feeling that comes up incredibly often when we’re talking about resolutions, particularly around fitness and food,” says Thomas. “It’s just not productive, and it can be irrational. So many times, we attach guilt to expectations we haven’t met, as if we’ve done something wrong.” She suggests trying to look at the situation with a more objective perspective, to see if you’re magnifying the consequences of abandoning a resolution. What This Means For You If you’ve given up your New Year’s resolutions, you’re far from alone. But if you’d like to make a change, take a more flexible and adaptable approach, and start with thinking about your reasons for making that shift. Why It's Okay to Break Your New Year's Resolutions 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Dickson, J.M.; Moberly, N.J.; Preece, D.; Dodd, A.; Huntley, C.D. Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3084. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063084 Bailly N, Martinent G, Ferrand C, Gana K, Joulain M, Maintier C. Tenacious goal pursuit and flexible goal adjustment in older people over 5 years: a latent profile transition analysis. Age Ageing. 2016 Mar;45(2):287-92. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv203. Epub 2016 Jan 18. Erratum in: Age Ageing. 2016 Sep;45(5):741. PMID: 26786345. By Elizabeth Millard Elizabeth Millard is a freelance journalist specializing in health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.