There are two skateboards leaning against the wall in Gerhard Andersson’s office in the Psychology Department at Linköping University.
“My new year’s resolution last year was to skateboard, and I’ve done that, so that will be my next new year’s resolution as well: to keep skateboarding at least once a week, sometimes two or three times,” he says, smiling.
Four methods are tested
But there are new year’s resolutions that are harder to keep. To quit smoking, for instance, or to not eat things that are bad for your health. An earlier Linköping University study Photo credit Jonas Roslund involving 1000 participants showed that approximately half of those that had promised to stop doing something had managed to still keep their promise after a year. When it comes to new year’s resolutions to start doing something – working out, for instance – the outcome was a bit better. Around 60 percent were successful.
But what actually makes you keep what you promise? Are there ways to strengthen our faltering resolve? This is what Gerhard Andersson will now investigate, together with colleagues at Stockholm and Uppsala University. They are hoping for 2000 participants to take part in a new study where four groups will each try a different method.
New year’s resolutions could possibly have the same impact as following a treatment programme
Some will be helped to break down their resolution into sub-targets, others will evaluate their resolution according to how feasible it is, and a third group may enlist the help of a friend or loved one. Finally, there will be a control group of people who simply just make their resolution, full stop.
Which method will work is far from evident. While someone may feel motivated by going running with a friend, someone else may find it stressful to have such a sporty friend.
Although this study may be more light-hearted than many of his other studies, Gerhard Andersson still finds the issue interesting. New year’s resolutions may be more limited, such as giving up on sweets, but they can also be life-changing. Moreover, they are connected to a specific point in time that many people see as suitable for a new beginning.
“New year’s resolutions could possibly have the same impact as following a treatment programme or similar. That makes it more than just something you do for fun,” he says.
As for himself, he is pleased at having kept his own resolution, as skateboarding helps him recover.
“I can’t think about whether I’ll be granted research funding or whether a scientific article may be refused or whether I have lots of exam papers to correct. All this fades away, because if you’re not focusing on here and now you may break a leg.”
More about the study (in Swedish)