What is the best way to create a new year’s resolution?

– Grace Anderson, Student Minds Blogger

As the New Year dawns upon us many of you are probably brain storming New Year’s resolutions for 2015, perhaps to resolve bad habits such as giving up smoking, drinking or eating junk food. Or perhaps some of you have more than one resolution and instead have a whole list of things that you would like to change – if you’re anything like me this is 100% true!

However, psychological research has suggested that trying hard not to do something, ironically leads you to perform more of these negative habits. I can see that puzzled look on your face, so why is this?

This effect has been referred to by psychologists as ironic mental control. The ironic part is that by trying not to do or think of things or the desires for something, this seems to actually bring them on more strongly. Therefore, the problem is that when you are trying hard not to do something and are trying to supress desires, you tend to go overthink and do even more than you would otherwise do. The brain is a very weird and complex thing hey! But in a funny way this does make complete sense and explains why again and again and again we frequently make New Year’s resolutions every year and then break them, within a very short period of time.

Thus, Dan Wegner (who studies in the field of ironic mental control) has argued that the only way in which New Year’s resolutions should be made is to keep them positive and constructive. Perhaps try getting more fit or try that hobby or club you always wanted to do. This is because negative resolutions have been found in psychological research to be hard to control due to them requiring constant effort and many invasive distractions. Therefore, do something new this year, create a positive resolution as this should be easier to control.

So rather than making the New Year’s resolutions to not do something this year, instead determine to be more positive and do something!

One way in which these do’s can be achieved is by finding a ‘buddy’; someone who also has similar positive resolutions and then you can bounce off each other and help with motivation when it’s lacking.

Most of all, don’t be too hard on yourself and set unrealistic goals that you won’t be able to achieve. Start small and you may achieve a bigger goal.

Here’s to 2015 and I wish you all a Happy New Year 🙂


One thought on “What is the best way to create a new year’s resolution?

  1. Thank you Grace for your great blog. It makes a lot of sense – at some level we all know that the ‘not doing something’ doesn’t work, and your blog makes us even more consciously aware that this is so and offers another way instead.
    As you say, it is traditional for most of us to come up with New Year’s resolution . . . and when you think about it, we are being offered another opportunity to look at the way we are living as we travel around the sun yet once more through the yearly round of days and the succession of seasons.
    Every year buildings are getting higher, a new phone or computer with out-of-this-world apps come out, dentistry and surgery get more refined, and the list goes on. All these things are great and look like ‘progress’, but how are we in ourselves?
    Is the world still at war? Is human trafficking still happening and increasing? etc.
    And at the microcosmic level, we could ask, are our relationships deepening and are we able to let love in without fearing we will lose it? Are we more gentle with ourselves (and thus others)? Do we notice when we are running a self-bashing conversation in our heads and are we able to simply drop it and come back to who we truly are (as you have said, psychological research has found that it requires constant effort to keep up and maintain negative thought)?

    I have found that awareness around what I am running in my head and then taking a moment to let myself simply feel what I am thinking or experiencing, will show whether what I am thinking/doing is true or not.
    My New Year’s resolution for 2015 is to lovingly stay aware of the quality of thoughts I allow, to observe them, and to let them go if they are not based on love, the love that I naturally am, and that all people are in essence. And I so agree, it is great to have a friend for mutual awareness and support.

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