Why Do We Make & Break New Year’s Resolutions?

Over half of Brits didn’t make any New Year's resolutions this year. If you’re one of them, what held you back? Fear of failure? Lack of motivation? Whatever the reason, we’re on hand to help you avoid ‘new year, new me’ guilt with expert tips to take into 2022.

Love Hemp surveyed over 2,000 people to find out how many Brits have already broken their New Year’s resolutions. Surprisingly, the survey revealed that 53% of participants didn’t pick any this year at all. Speaking on the reasons behind Brits’ decision to avoid making big promises for 2022, Love Hemp founder, Tony Calamita said:

“There’s a lot of pressure on us when it comes to the New Year and making big lifestyle changes, many of which we’re unable to keep. This might be why so many of us broke with tradition this year and decided against resolutions which, for many, inevitably lead to feelings of guilt and shame when we’re unable to stick to them.”

Our survey also highlighted a significant age-split between those who did and didn’t declare their good intentions for 2022. 


With regards to New Year's resolutions, which of the statements do you most agree with?

18 - 24

25 - 34

35 - 44

45 - 54

55 - 64

65+

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions

32.6%

37.3%

45.7%

57.2%

63.4%

67.1%

I made New Year's resolutions and I have stuck to them

44.6%

41.3%

34.9%

25.7%

24.1%

19.7%

I made New Year's resolutions but broke them in the first week of January

16.3%

14.0%

12.0%

11.9%

9.9%

9.6%

I made New Year's resolutions but broke them in the second week of January

6.5%

7.5%

7.4%

5.2%

2.6%

3.7%

Why do we feel pressure to make and keep New Year's resolutions?

“Even though the switch of the calendar from one year to the next involves nothing more than the passing of a day, symbolically this yearly calendar change represents new beginnings and new possibilities,” according to Professor Fuschia Sirois

“This makes it easier to imagine that things will be different, and that we will be able to stick to our goals this time around.”

If you fall into the same category as the half we surveyed that made no resolutions this year, it’s likely that others skipped this year due to any of the reasons below.

“If we abandon our resolutions, it is akin to giving up on positive changes, and it's this pressure that can drive us to try to keep these resolutions,” according to the University of Sheffield professor. 

“It’s really important first off to not take an “all or nothing” approach to resolutions,” said Professor Sirois. “This can backfire and actually make it easier to abandon them.”

“If you give in one day and have a biscuit if you’re on a sugar-ban and view this as breaking your resolution rather than as a temporary lapse, then the feelings of guilt from this may drive you to abandon the goal and then indulge further.”

Have you broken a New Year’s resolution?

“You are not the first person to ever lapse on your New Year’s resolution, and you won’t be the last”, Professor Sirois continues. 

Even with such reassurance, why do we feel so guilty around broken resolutions every year? Behavioural science professor Ivo Vlaev agrees that an element of pressure surrounds our resolutions. We make resolutions “in order to reduce feelings of guilt and anxiety about our overindulgence over the festive period, which also serves as a reminder we need to get back in shape in general”, he suggests. 

If this is you, you’re not alone. Health, diet and fitness has topped the list of resolutions for the third year in a row, according to Yougov’s latest poll, with 49% surveyed deciding on more exercise as their main goal for the new year. A recent Statista poll also showed that 20% of respondents planned to cut down on alcohol this January in order to take a break after festive celebrations.

Top tips to succeed, long-term

 

Fitness

 

“Expect that you WILL have occasional lapses on your journey to keeping your resolutions,” Professor Sirois agrees. “It’s inevitable. And then when you do, remind yourself that this is a normal part of the journey towards reaching goals.”

Goals that are too big, ambiguous, or not well defined are the very ones that can feel overwhelming or provoke uncertainty and therefore be procrastinated,” she adds.

Increase your chances of success by making your goals realistic and setting a manageable structure to follow. By planning some sub-goals to hit along the way, each sub-goal can act as a stepping stone - acting as that much-needed confidence boost for a dose of motivation along the way. 

Here’s some healthy strategies to try this year that don’t have to halt once February hits:

  • Set a smartphone timer to keep you on track
    Once the timer runs out every 60 minutes, take your cue to move around, drink some water, or grab a healthy snack.

  • Invite colleagues with you on a break
    If you’re back at the office, try dropping an email to let your team know that you’ll be heading out on a half-hour walk, and they’re welcome to join you.

  • Set a sticky-note reminder
    Simply write down a note for your desktop screen to help remind you to stretch every 30 minutes. It’s hard to ignore when it’s right in front of you!

  • Decide what a healthier lifestyle means to you, long-term
    “Focus on your stepping stones that are easier to reach”, suggests Professor Sirois. “Start to exercise once a week for the first month, and then slowly increase this rate the next month. This is preferable to saying that you want to exercise 4 times a week right from the start, which is a tall order that will likely lead to lapses and abandoning your resolution.”


How to reduce guilty feelings if you’re struggling

If your grand plans in or outside the gym are falling flat, Professor Vlaev reassures us that it’s important to reduce any feelings of guilt or anxiety.

“Keep in mind where you started,” he recommends. “Remind yourself that it is the long game, and reward yourself for the effort - not the progress. This last one is very important!”

It’s natural to feel guilty or self-critical when we have lapses with our resolutions, and these are all emotions that our experts understand. 

“It’s important to remember that actually struggling with our New Year’s goals is quite normal and to be expected, rather than thinking that somehow you should be perfect in your attempt to keep your resolution,” says Professor Sirois. 

But how can we manage these negative feelings when they crop up? Professor Sirois recommends practising some self-compassion. 

“This means treating ourselves with the same kindness, acceptance, and understanding that we would show a good friend or family member who was struggling with their goal, rather than being judgemental or harshly self-critical,” she suggests.

“Most importantly, being self-compassionate involves recognising that mistakes, lapses, and struggles are part of the human condition.” 

By responding to any stumbles with self-compassion, you’ll be in a stronger position to persist, and feel more motivated to improve. 

2022, we’re looking at you!