Lillian Vernon Blog

A Treasury of Fine Gifts Since 1951

How To Make New Year’s Resolutions (And Not Break Them)

Does anyone take New Year’s resolutions seriously anymore?

Former President Obama doesn’t. He acknowledged as much in a recent interview with Prince Harry on the BBC:

“I’m not sure I believe in New Year’s resolutions – typically people break them,” the former president said.

Prince Harry’s fiancee Meghan Markle says she isn’t a fan of keeping to strict New Year’s resolutions anymore, either. The princess-to-be wrote in 2016 that her only intention for that new year was to “leave room for magic.”

But if you’re looking to make a few more solid changes to your daily routines this year, there are ways that psychologists say you actually can make New Year’s resolutions a success.

Here are three of their top tips:

Tip #1: Only make New Year’s resolutions if you really want to change

Think about why you’re resolving to try something new: Are you just a little curious how it might feel? Are you trying something out just because the rest of the gang is doing it? Or, are you really sick and tired of the way things are and you’re finally ready to make a change? That could be a sign that this is the year to try out a New Year’s resolution.

Yale psychology Professor John Bargh told Business Insider that people should only resolve to try something new this year if it’s really important to them personally, and it’s something they’d want to change even when no one else is watching.

“I wouldn’t play around with these things,” Bargh said.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School agree. They write that “long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking.”

It’s best to pick a specific goal — not just “I want to get more exercise” but, specifically how much and when, like: “I’m going to bike for 30 minutes, 4 days a week,” for example. Making specific, measurable actions a part of your daily routine, triggered by things you do every day (like coming home from work and popping on a pair of running shoes at the back door) make it easier to succeed.

Another part of the reason that New Year’s resolutions so often fail, Bargh says, is that people enjoy sharing their failures with others. “Bragging” about how we just can’t resist our favorite temptations can foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie among the not-so-resolved. But the old therapist’s mantra rings true for resolutions, too: You don’t change unless you really want to.

Tip #2: Keep your new promise to yourself (and to your body) for an entire month, without exception

Many of the habitual actions we do every day require very little thinking: driving a car, washing our hands, typing on a keyboard, or picking which route to take to school or to work in the morning are all tasks that become largely second-nature over time, requiring less and less of our conscious mind. The brain and body learn from these everyday habits and start anticipating how to act.

That’s why it’s important to stay consistent with a new regime.

“You don’t wanna make promises that you don’t keep to your body and your mind,” Bargh said.

Research suggests it can take as little as 18 days or as long as 254 to pick up a new routine, depending on what you’re trying to do, but Bargh says a month is a good measuring stick for trying on a new resolution. If you try something out for the first 31 days of the year and you don’t like the change, you can decide to forgo it in February, but give the idea a fighting chance, first, with a month of solid, uninterrupted effort.

Tip #3: Replace the bad with the good

You know that little kid who needs to be distracted with a shiny object to stop crying? Well, your body and mind are a lot like that kid when they’re trying to form new habits and move into new patterns. We typically need to replace an old, stale behavior with a new one.

Bargh successfully mastered this trick once himself when he decided he wanted to quit drinking. Instead of coming home and sipping on an alcoholic beverage, he scoured his home of all alcoholic indulgences and instead started sucking on sugary Tootsie Pops anytime he had a fresh urge for a tipple. It gave his mouth something positive, fun and new to do. He even made a little game out of the new habit: wadding up his lollipop wrappers and tossing them to the cat to bat around like some kind of feline Derek Jeter.

Whether you’re interested in finally giving an old New Year’s resolution a real go this year, or you’re just ready for something new, Bargh says initiating change is always tough. So, his final piece of advice is a simple one: If you are going to resolve to do something new, “do it for yourself,” he says.

Otherwise, it’s probably not a change worth fighting for in the first place.

You Might Also Like

FALL in Love with Your Home: Five Personalized Ways to Spruce Things Up for Autumn

Get Spooky with Lillian Vernon…Your Halloween Headquarters for Gifts, Ghouls & Goblins

Calling All Happy Campers! Plan Your Next Family Camping Trip With These 7 Key Pieces

Dog Trainer to the Stars, Tamar Geller, Will Teach You How to Coach Your Best Friend

All is Merry and Bright: Introducing Our Personalized, Keepsake Ornaments for the Holidays

FIVE PET SAFETY TIPS TO FOLLOW ON HOWL-EEN

Show Off Your Style With Our Personalized Napkins for All Occasions

Lillian Vernon Debuts Exclusive Design Partnership with Anders Ruff

Explore, Dream, Discover: Eleven Must-Have Gifts for Happy Kids

Impress for Less: TWENTY Lillian Vernon Exclusive & Personalized Gifts Under $10!

Set Your Thanksgiving Table in Style with Lillian Vernon

Set a Spooky Stage for Your Halloween Party with Lillian Vernon

Oh Man, Why Didn’t I Think of That? The Quintessential Gift Guide for All of the Men in Your Life

Deck the Halls with Personalized Christmas Stockings! New, Classic, and Fun Designs for the Whole Family, Even Your Pet

Making a List, Checking it Twice: Lillian Vernon’s New and Personalized Gifts for Children

Design and Shine with Five of our NEW and Versatile Gifts for Your Home

Here Comes Santa Claus! Our Top New Stocking Stuffers for Kids

Make it Personal: 13 Great Gifts For Her Starting at $6.99!

Good Things Come to Those Who Bake! Tips and Kitchen Essentials for Baking up a Storm during the Holidays

Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader: The Best Personalized Books for Kids

Let the Games Begin! New and Classic Family Games for the Holidays

Keep it Simple! Entertaining Tips and Gifts to Breeze Through the Holidays

Creative, Personalized and Unique Baby Gifts for All Seasons

May Your Holidays Be Sweet: Introducing our Personalized Collection from Dylan’s Candy Bar

Tips for Throwing a Holiday Cocktail Party on a Budget

Hitting the Road for the Holidays? Check Out Our Top Tips for Traveling with Kids

Top Tips on How To Nurture Your Budding Artists

Give Thanks the Old-Fashioned Way: Tips on Teaching Children to Write Thank-you Notes

Christmas is Coming! New Ideas to Spruce Up Your Home for the Holidays

Everyone Loves a Sale! Shop our Top Sale Items Under $20 (Many are Under $10!)

Get Santa’s Little Helpers Organized with our Top Five Tips to Staying Tidy

Ladies Who Brunch: Our Exclusive Quick and Easy Quiche Recipe for the Holidays

Make Plans for the New Year: Stylish Photo Calendars for Friends and Family

Ring in 2017 with a Sweet and Chic Cakes & Cocktails Party!

Nesting into the Near Year: Foolproof Tips for Starting the Perfect Fire

Share the Luck ‘O the Irish and Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Lillian Vernon

Take a Break! Packing Tips and Essentials for Your Spring Getaway

Some Bunny Loves You! Tips for Easter Baking With Your Little Ones

Here Comes Peter Cottontail…Our Top 10 Tips for an Egg-cellent Easter Egg Hunt

7 Tips for Fun & Safe Trick-or-Treating This Halloween

10 Fall Activities for Your Fall Bucket List

20 Things to be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

15 Christmas Home Decor Ideas

10 Tips to Help You Stay Productive At Work (Even Though It’s The Holidays)

9 Christmas Desserts You Can Leave For Santa

4 Fun DIY Calendar Ideas

10 Creative Ways to Say “I Love You” On Valentine’s

How to Organize Your Closet

5 Easter Egg Crafts

6 Meaningful Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Summer Themes for Kids

Essential Back-to-School Checklist

Staycation vs Vacation | Which one is right for you?

It’s Time to Get Spooky!