3 Reasons Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T. 

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January 1st is just a month away.

A day when 45% of all Americans and countless more people, worldwide, will set resolutions, many of which center on self-improvement.



The top 5 New Year’s resolutions are, quite consistently to:

(1) Lose Weight (2) Get Organized (3) Spend Less, Save More (4) Enjoy Life to the Fullest and (5) Get Fit & Healthy.


In fact, The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior, by Milkman, Dai and Riis shows conclusively that not only do Google searches for the term, “diet”, but also the number of gym visits and verbalized commitment to pursue goals all increase following the start of a new week, month, year, semester, birthday, or holiday.


I doubt that surprises you.


I could spend time here, explaining there is nothing magical about January 1st, or Monday, the start of a week or the beginning of a month, for I truly believe that.  Starting something new on Tuesday is just as possible as starting on Monday.  Beginning on November 30th is as good as January 1st.


There is absolutely nothing “special” about the first of the year. If you employ habit-based, incremental change, rather than trying to change every single thing you do and every single thing you eat – all in one day [You know that doesn’t work. You’ve tried it how many times before?] you can be successful regardless of when you start.




There is this little thing called, “human nature”.


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First, we like to do what we’ve always done.  As creatures of habit, we always make plans, goals, and resolutions at this time of the year.  Somewhere between 8 and 10 percent of people who make resolutions, are successful in keeping them.  There is no reason we can’t be in that elite group!  We’re serious this time!




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We are social beings and misery loves company.  Not just physically, but online too.  As of June, 2015, there were 1.5 million mobile apps on iTunes – most of them social in nature.  While our resolutions are predominantly focused on self-improvement, that does not mean they are easy.  Changing engrained habits is hard work!  If we plan changes at this time of the year, when (at least it seems like) everyone else is also doing it – we’re not alone.  We have support amongst a whole crop of “newbies”.  We can commiserate with others.


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We are susceptible to what behavioral scientists call, “the fresh start effect”.   By our very nature, we like aligning our new beginnings. We like clearly delineated lines.  If we start a diet on January 1st, everything that happened prior to that date, no longer matters.  We have a clean slate with the start of the new year.  We just like to start things with the start of other things.  It’s logical.  Humans like to group similar things together.  It’s what we do.


Beginnings beget beginnings.


“In fresh start moments, people feel more distant from their past failures,” says Katy Milkman, one of the lead researches in this work. “With the downward pull of failures behind us, it’s much easier to move forward.”


We make New Year’s resolutions for a variety of reasons.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about why these resolutions won’t work any better this year than they have in the past.

Stay tuned.




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