Ten Science-Backed Tips For Actually Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions This Time


Dr. Katie Spalding

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer


This year it's for real. Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

As the old saying goes, “new year, new me”.

Or perhaps this variation is more your style? “Ok, this year I really, definitely, absolutely will lose 20 pounds, learn French, and start volunteering at the homeless shelter. I swear. No, I know I said the same thing last year, but this time I really mean it.”


Turning over a new leaf can be difficult. No matter how sure you are of success, the chances that you’ll end 2019 as some karate-kicking, Hungarian-speaking, well-rested non-smoker are only about one in 10. It’s enough to make you give up altogether – which is exactly what nearly one-third of people did at the beginning of this year.


But if one in 10 people can do it, so can you. All you need is some science-backed tips to help you along the way – and, thanks to psychologist (and quirkologist) Professor Richard Wiseman, we have just that.

Good luck!

Richard Wiseman’s Tips For New Year’s Resolution Success

  1. Don’t take on too much

“Make only one resolution,” Wiseman explains. “Your chances of success are greater when you channel energy into changing just one aspect of your behaviour.”

  1. Mull it over

“Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution and instead take some time out a few days before and reflect upon what you really want to achieve,” he says.

  1. Keep it fresh

“Avoid previous resolutions; deciding to re-visit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment,” he explains. If you must revisit a previous resolution, try a different approach – ditch “lose ten pounds” for “exercise more,” for instance.

  1. Think about what you really want

If everybody you know is talking about ditching carbs next year, it’s easy to think you ought to do the same. But if you live off pasta, that’s a bad idea. “Don’t run with the crowd and go with the usual resolutions,” says Wiseman. “Instead think about what you really want out of life.”

  1. Take it one step at a time

It’s good to be ambitious, but aim too high, too quick, and you’re setting yourself up for failure. “Break your goal into a series of steps, focusing on creating sub-goals that are concrete, measurable, and time-based,” Wiseman says – rather than aiming to “get a new job”, try setting a goal of writing a killer resume in one month, and applying for two jobs per month after that, he advises.

  1. Go public

After failing to finish renovations on your house for the sixth time running last year, it can be tempting to keep your resolutions to yourself. Don’t. “Tell your friends and family about your goals, thus increasing the fear of failure and eliciting support,” says Wiseman.

  1. Keep yourself motivated

Resolutions are for life, not just for new years. “Regularly remind yourself of the benefits associated with achieving your goals by creating a checklist of how life would be better once you obtain your aim,” Wiseman says.

  1. Treat yo self

This one we definitely support. “Give yourself a small reward whenever you achieve a sub-goal, thus maintaining motivation and a sense of progress.”

  1. Keep track

Don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come – or where you want to go next. “Make your plans and progress concrete by keeping a handwritten journal, completing a computer spreadsheet or covering a notice board with graphs or pictures,” says Wiseman.

And last but not least …

  1. Setbacks are normal

Ok, so you decided to start eating healthy for 2019, and yet here you are, mid-February, halfway through a three-tier chocolate cake. Don’t panic. “Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time,” Wiseman explains. “Treat any failure as a temporary setback rather than a reason to give up altogether.”

 [H/T: ScienceAlert]