Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?

Mercy Behavioral Health psychiatrist, Dr. Natalie Kurkjian, on the New Year tradition of self-change and how to make them last
New Year Resolution 1

 

How long have you practiced psychiatry in Oklahoma?

I’ve been practicing psychiatry at Mercy since 2017 and completed my training that year.

 

What are your thoughts on the standard New Year’s resolutions?

I think New Year’s resolutions have the best intentions. The idea to establish a new behavior or make a personal change sounds positive; however, in psychology, we know that a change cannot just happen. The calendar simply changing to Jan. 1 does not imply that one may be ready to change. There exists various stages of change; a person may simply be contemplating a change but not actually ready to make the change active. 

 

What are the typical resolutions that you see?

The most popular resolutions mentioned is to adopt healthier eating habits and to become more active. After this, it is to be more financially responsible. Lastly, a more personal resolution to stop smoking. I will say as I meet new patients at the beginning of the year, a decision to address mental health issues has become more popular. 

 

The Big Question – Do they work?

I think this is where New Year’s resolutions go sour. So many people have stopped making resolutions because by February, March, the goals and the motivation to make change fade. It has become sort of a societal joke that the gym memberships soar in January with (pre-COVID-19) gyms being standing room only and a few months later, the numbers dwindle. But as with anything, some work! There are people who make the resolution, have a plan in place, and succeed! 

 

Why do people wait until the New Year to start resolutions?

I think the historical nature of making New Year’s resolutions is part of it. I also think the seasonal changes come into play; the natural progression from grey and dull to sunlight, green grass, and flowers blooming is a symbol of change we subconsciously follow. 

 

How can someone make it work?

I think, as I mentioned earlier, an understanding of where someone is in their journey to change is important. If someone is ready to start exercising more, but hasn’t thought about what type of exercise, where, how, when, etc. it may be difficult to get going on Jan. 1. I think planning is an integral part of it. If you want to be debt-free in 2021, having a full understanding of your current financial situation and a monthly budget is needed before jumping into this resolution.

 

Besides planning, I think setting smaller goals is another option. Instead of saying you want to lose 30 pounds in 2021, how about setting a goal of five pounds for the first two months? This can be more psychologically tangible and result in success. That small achievement will boost confidence and morale so you can continue to meet more goals.

 

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