5 Ways to Make Your Life Resolutions Stick

Follow these research-backed tips to make positive changes that last all year long.

a young fit Black man makes notes in a journal about his goals and resolutions for the year

Medically reviewed in March 2022

Updated on June 10, 2022

What are your resolutions this year? To start exercising? Lose weight? Quit smoking? Stop stressing out?

Chances are you’re already taking steps to make your resolutions happen. But how do you stay motivated to reach your goal as the year drags on? Here are five expert tips to help you make your resolutions stick.

Start tracking
Now that you’ve come up with your resolutions, it’s time to track your progress. Write down your accomplishments in a journal or on a calendar. You can also use the trackers in the Sharecare app (available for Android and iOS) to keep tabs on your daily steps, the quality of your diet, your sleep duration, and more.  

A 2016 analysis of research published in Psychological Bulletin suggests that making a record of your journey increases your chances of keeping your resolution—and the effect is enhanced when you make your progress public. More eyes on your efforts can help keep you accountable.

Celebrate yourself
As you work toward your resolution, make a point to celebrate your successes, big or small. Treat yourself to a new gym outfit, a healthy meal at your favorite restaurant, even a nap. Just make sure to reward yourself “immediately and every time” you achieve even a small goal, says psychologist and behavioral change expert John C. Norcross, PhD. Reinforcing your progress can keep you moving toward your goal.

Remember your surroundings
You want to put yourself in environments that will help you—rather than hurt you—in accomplishing your goal. Limit your exposure to situations that could derail your success.

For example, if your resolution is to eat healthier, skip pizza night with your friends. If you’re trying to quit smoking, don’t spend time with your pal who still smokes.

Stay positive
There’s something to be said for the power of positive thinking. Research has shown that people who have a “glass is half-full” mentality are more likely to succeed. Your attitude can make a difference between what you do and what you fail to do. Staying positive and praising yourself for small steps will keep you on track to the finish line.

Bounce back when you slip up
Most people who ultimately achieve their goals may let them slide a bit along the way. Remember that a slip-up isn’t necessarily a fall. Just pick yourself up and recommit to your resolution. Don’t let one missed exercise class end your workout program or one hot fudge sundae derail your plan to heat more healthfully.

In fact, one landmark study of people making resolutions showed that 71 percent of those who kept their resolutions said their first slip actually made them stronger.

Remember, the path to change is not linear, and it doesn’t need to be. Be persistent in your efforts without punishing yourself. Be patient when looking for results and allow yourself a little grace. Be kind to yourself and maintain a positive attitude because any progress is better than none. Before you know it, your resolutions will transform into lasting accomplishments.

Article sources open article sources

Harkin B, Webb TL, Chang BP, et al. Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychol Bull. 2016;142(2):198-229.
Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.
Norcross JC, Vangarelli DJ. The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts. J Subst Abuse. 1988;1(2):127-134.

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