Illustration of person writing down a resolution

How to make New Year's resolutions that stick

January 10, 2021

Research & Innovation

From common goals like getting out of debt and losing weight to those influenced by the pandemic — like connecting with friends and family via Zoom — here are UR faculty experts' tips from their areas of research to help you achieve your goals in 2021.

Many New Year’s resolutions are finance related such as budgeting for a big ticket item or finding a few areas to cut down on spending. Don Forsyth, professor of leadership studies and a social and personality psychologist, said people can be successful in improving their financial habits. He says the key is developing habits that become second nature. 

"We live in a time when mindfulness is championed, and when it comes to controlling spending sometimes mindlessness is the better strategy,” Forsyth said. “Develop and maintain money-saving consumer habits that become so ingrained that you no longer need to think about them. Create routines in spending and leisure that are maximally satisfying but less expensive than alternatives.”

Camilla Nonterah, a counseling psychologist whose clinical interests focus on behavioral medicine, notes that whatever your resolution, motivation is key.

“Change for the right reasons,” Nonterah said. “Change for a desire to improve one’s health, to be a better example for your family, or to prolong your life, are more likely to motivate positive change.”

Nonterah also notes that monitoring your progress will improve the odds of success.

“Track and monitor your behavior,” she suggests. “This enhances positive behavior change. You can accomplish this by journaling and note-taking. Many people also find that free apps to help track progress are helpful.”

Behavioral neuroscientist Kelly Lambert says no matter what your goals are for the new year, simply reflecting on the past and looking ahead can give your brain a tune up.

"When the calendar flips to a new year, it’s common to reflect on the past and look to the future,” Lambert said. “According to the neuroscience literature, this anticipation could be one of the most pleasurable — and healthy — tasks our brains engage in all year long.”

Read more from these and other experts on the holiday stories expert guide.