Exercise more, quit smoking, eat healthy; Here's why New Year resolutions fail and tips to make them work

To keep up with the resolutions, we need to give ourselves the space to enjoy our lives, relax, and take breaks between work and the effort we put in


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Fri 30 Dec 2022, 6:30 AM

Last updated: Fri 30 Dec 2022, 7:48 PM

As the New Year approaches, millions of people with renewed zeal and dreams take the opportunity to start afresh. People hope to work on self-improvement and set ambitious goals, but by the end of February, all their plans and resolutions fall short. It's the same story every year.

Many studies claim that only 12 per cent taste victory and the majority fail to keep up their resolve before February ends. Khaleej Times spoke to psychologists to understand why New Year's resolutions fail and how to overcome this failure.

Psychologists say that the primary focus when deciding on a resolution should be sustainable and organic to yourself and your world. “The best resolutions are the ones that are realistically attainable,” said Dr Clarice Mendonca (PsyD), a clinical neuropsychologist at Brain Matters Centre.

“Most New Year’s resolutions fail because they are not reasonable, sustainable, efficient or specific enough, and we get carried away by the prospect of renewal that we also forget to consider basic obstacles that exist in our nature and environment,” added Dr Mendonca.

Reham Helal Abdelrahman Ali Ammar, clinical psychologist, NMC Royal Hospital - Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, said that we must focus on values when deciding on New Year’s resolutions and choose to accomplish our goals by taking steps toward them.

“New year resolutions fail because goals are unrealistic, and we don’t track our progress or know the steps to follow our goals. Time management is necessary, including social and family support,” said Ammar.

Many make health resolutions - to exercise more and be fitter. Psychologists say these statements would be broad and can be turned into more achievable solutions if broken down into specific and targeted goals. “We can’t keep up with these resolutions because they are not suited to our lifestyle or situation. We decide to do something too grand or different, or drastic. So even when we decide to do something meant to be good for our well-being, it ends up feeling like burdensome work,” said Dr Mendonca.

Specialists believe that those who successfully achieve their New Year’s resolution are the ones that use the cycle of plan, implementing, evaluating, and adapting. “I often find the highest success rates among people who use both their mind and their heart to make a strategic decision, those who rely on themselves and their surroundings for help and support, and those who are humble about their ambitions,” said Dr Mendonca.

To keep up with the resolutions, psychologists believe we need to give ourselves the space to enjoy our lives, relax, and take breaks between work and the effort we put in.

Ammar said that one tracks the progress every three months or periodically and asserted to avoid making short-term goals. “Successful people are the ones who stay patient, self-resilient, passionate and take advice from others. People considering a resolution should assess why they want to succeed or the reasons behind the failure. Do not consider everything or nothing,”

Tips from psychologists to succeed in keeping resolution:

  • Make an informed decision — take a good and thorough look at your life, how satisfied you are with it, what is good, what needs to change, what resources you have available, and whom you can depend on for support.
  • Keep your thoughts around resolutions broad with specific steps to achieve them. Eg: “I will nurture my physical and mental well-being,” which would include taking e care of my body, setting up a routine and surrounding myself with the right people.
  • Consider multiple options, even those that initially seem unreasonable. This allows you to eventually identify the most reasonable and sustainable alternative and gives you backup plans in case your chosen method doesn’t work or becomes boring.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Be open to reassessing and adapting your strategies from time to time.
  • A visual reminder can often help keep the focus on the goals we set ourselves to achieve (setting up a vision board, for example)


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