a woman's hand holding a martini glass pouring glitter onto a pink background

Your New Year's
resolutions may be
bad for your health
— here's why

By Kathleen Morrison
December 29, 2022

Goodbye 2022, hello 2023! Whether you’re excited for the new year or getting overwhelmed by it all, you might be feeling a bit of pressure to make resolutions and set goals for the coming 12 months. This pressure may feel especially intolerable right now, when 3 years of pandemic life has thrown our schedules, lifestyles, and health into chaos. A new resolution may feel like one more thing to put on a checklist that already seems unachievable. If you’re feeling stressed, don’t worry—science is actually on your side. New year’s resolutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and here’s what you can do instead.

Why new year’s resolutions often fail

New Year’s resolutions often start from a place of negativity. I’m too lazy. I procrastinate. I should lose weight. I need to be more proactive. These thoughts typically typically turn into 3 categories of resolutions:

  • A desire to stop avoiding something (complete that big DIY project you’ve been putting off)
  • A desire to quit an enjoyable habit (drinking, smoking, eating sugar, etc.)
  • A desire to do something that doesn’t come naturally to you (exercising, journaling, or meditation)

Because these categories come from a place of negative self-talk, we want to make progress quickly and feel better about ourselves. But changing repetitive, familiar patterns is already a difficult thing to do, and all 3 of these resolution categories will trigger negative feelings as you try to change. Trying to tackle that DIY project may leave you feeling overwhelmed or anxious if you aren’t sure where to start. Giving up a habit that you enjoy leaves you with one less tool for coping with the daily stresses of life. Forcing yourself into a new and unfamiliar activity can add to your mental load and cause discomfort. Of course, the goal is for your new year’s resolutions to ultimately improve your life, but it’s challenging to get to that point which is why so many of us struggle to stick to them.

What the research says

According to a 2018 YouGov poll, only 6 percent of people who made a resolution were able to fully meet it. Lisa Ordóñez, the dean of UC San Diego’s management school, has said that most goals get abandoned about a month into the year.

It’s tempting to think that setting goals is harmless, even if you don’t complete them, but goal-setting can actually undermine your progress if it feels like homework. Hitting setbacks may also make you feel like a failure and trigger you to fall even further off track. One study found that focusing only on the desired result actually predicted lower achievement. If your resolutions are too narrow, challenging, or you attempt too many, you may lose sight of the bigger picture or focus disproportionately on short-term gains. This negative mindset can lead to increased stress, which isn’t great for your physical or mental health!

What you can do about it

The key to successful resolutions and successful goal-setting is to properly frame what you want to achieve and to choose the right goals—it sounds simple, but this is often easier said than done! We’ve got a few tips to set you up for success.

  • Review and write down last year’s accomplishments. Include everything, big and small. This list isn’t just about promotions at work or awards you received—resolved a conflict with a friend? Write it down. Conquered a fear of dating by going on a bunch of first dates? Write it down. Figured out how to make the perfect boiled egg? Yep, goes on the list. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve achieved! Seeing what’s possible will put you in a more focused and optimistic mindset for tackling the next year.
  • Reflect on the outcomes you want and why they are important to you. We have a tendency to choose certain goals just because they are easy to measure. One of the reasons losing weight is such a popular resolution is because you can easily track the number on the scale. Take a look at your deeper motivations—do you want to lose weight to gain confidence? Fit your clothes better? Be happier? Ask yourself if there are other things you can do to make those things a reality (get excited about a new wardrobe, start a new hobby, or reach out for support from friends). Choosing goals that are more aligned with your nature will have you swimming with the current instead of fighting against it.
  • Give yourself a break. The last few years have been hard on everyone—literally. The entire planet has been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and you’re no different. Getting off track when it comes to your goals doesn’t mean you have to abandon them altogether—it just means one bad day. Take some time to reset and then get back on the horse.

One more tool to make things easier

Wisp is supporting you in 2023, whether you’re a resolution-setter or forging your own path. Our goal is to take simple healthcare off your plate—that means no more worrying about outbreaks, chronic vaginal symptoms, picking up your birth control, or getting Plan B when you need it. We go with you to all 50 states so you always have a doctor in your back pocket to provide low-cost care wherever you are. No matter what 2023 throws at you, your reproductive and sexual care will be handled. Go get ‘em.

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