Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick

New Year's resolutions can derail without a good plan of attack

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Every year people make New Year’s resolutions, and every year it’s a battle to stick with them. Plan ahead, set up a support network and use good coping tactics to stay the course.

Dennis Donovan, PhD, director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington provided some helpful tips for creating New Year’s resolutions and following through with them until the good habits take root. 

"Reach out for support to help change habits"

“New Year’s is a time to reflect, see things differently or for the first time. People have the best of intentions around the holidays, but it often dissipates quickly.” said Donovan.

“The lastingness of a resolution depends on the initial level of commitment and degree to which it’s made public and implemented rapidly.”

Donovan recommends starting New Year’s resolutions through a process of being honest and realistic with the life you lead and then following these steps to help shape goals:

Measure pros and cons

Whether it has to do with drinking less, smoking less, losing weight or exercising more, take the time to fully grasp what the pros and cons of these changes will mean in daily life.

Donovan said, “[B]ecome aware of the benefits of changing but also know the cons because those could be the barriers to following through.”

If a con to joining a gym is spending less time with family members, finding a way to be active as a family may be a better option than a single person gym membership.

Talk about the resolution

Changing habits is tough and support from friends and family can make a big difference. If announcing the intention to make a change gets a support network to back the decision and encourage progress, it’ll be easier to stick to the goal.

Quitting smoking is tough enough on it’s own, especially if friends and family members are smokers. Announcing an intention to quit and asking for support could encourage others to participate or at the very least try not to smoke in front of you.

Act now

Waiting to start a resolution can alter momentum. Donovan said, “Many of us are procrastinators and we’re good at talking ourselves out of things.”

Schedule a start or quit date in advance and stick to it. Allow time for mental preparation if necessary by planning in advance, but don’t procrastinate past the scheduled date of change.

Prepare for the long haul

To see the effects of change or to make a permanent change requires long-term changes in habits. Donovan said, “How firmly committed the person is and how well he or she has prepared to implement change probably contributes to the length and success of change.”

He recommends staying away from temptation whenever possible. Places or situations where it is tempting to slip back into old habits should be avoided until the resolution has manifested into a permanent change.

Donovan noted that alcohol-dependent people are most likely to relapse within the first 90 days of quitting.

It’s important to develop positive coping techniques and rely on a support system to help cope with change until it becomes habit.

Donovan's commentary was published in December through the University of Washington.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 20, 2012
Last Updated:
December 28, 2012