What Makes A New Year’s Resolution Stick

New Year's Resolution

Despite the popularity of New Year’s resolutions, current knowledge about them is limited, and the general consensus is that most people don’t stick to them. Martin Oscarsson and team (2020) investigated  a number of factors related to resolutions, and what might make them stick. They examined the following factors.

  • What resolutions people make when they are free to formulate them
  • Whether different resolutions reach differing success rates
  • Whether it is possible to increase the likelihood of a resolution’s success by administering information and exercises on effective goal setting. 

Oscarsson’s team (2020) studied 1066 people from the general public. They were randomly divided into three groups: active control, some support, and extended support. 

What did they find

The five most popular resolutions were changes in:

  • Physical health (33%).
  • Weight loss (20%). 
  • Eating habits (13%)
  • Personal growth (9%) 
  • Mental health/sleep (5%)

At a one-year follow-up, 55% of participants in the study considered themselves successful in sustaining their resolutions (regardless of resolution type). 

The group that received some support was exclusively and significantly more successful compared to the other two groups. That is some support more successful than no support or extensive support

Type of goal is important

Participants with approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals (58.9% vs. 47.1%). 

Some examples of avoidance oriented goals compared with approach-oriented goals, with the theme of health improvement are below.  

“I will not eat any lollies in the new year” (avoidance)

“I will eat more fresh food by adding at least one fruit or vegetable into my lunch every workday.” (approach)

“I will not spend so much time laying on the bed” (avoidance)

“I will walk around the block after dinner at least three times a week, it is less than a kilometre and doable.” (approach)

Conclusion – The Good News.

New Year’s resolutions can have lasting effects, even at a one-year follow-up. It also seems that counter to intuition, one does not need extensive support, just some support. Additionally, if one sets approach goals rather than avoidance goals this seems to be helpful. One must keep in mind that this is only one study, with people who volunteered, so were interested in change.

If you are thinking about change in the new year, making a resolution and need professional guidance, consider reaching out to the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne. Their team of experts can provide support and strategies to help you achieve your goals. You don’t have to let your New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside. You can book an appointment by phone at 03 9077 0122 or online at https://ccp.net.au/booking/.  A little bit of support might be all you need to make a resolution stick.


Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PloS one, 15(12), e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097