Though 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 9% said they were successful in keeping them.
According to research being presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Annual Convention 20176, the time for successful habit change is not based on the calendar, but on big changes to our everyday lives like moving to a new home.
Since changing your habits is very difficult, you can change the factors around the habit such as location or context, creating a “discontinuity effect,” said Bas Verplanken, professor of social psychology at the University of Bath.
On Why New Year’s resolutions don’t work, they said, “Changing from December 31st to January 1st is not a dramatic discontinuity. Many resolutions are made on December 31st, and go down the drain on January 2nd.”
The New Year may be a nice moment to mark the start of a new phase, but the point of the discontinuity effect is that the change in behavior is embedded in other changes. “In the case of moving to a new home for instance, people may need to find new solutions for how to do things in the new house, where and how to shop, commute, and so on. All of these aspects are absent when talking about New Year resolutions,” said Verplanken.
Verplanken studied the behaviors of over 800 people, half of whom had recently moved and half of whom had been at the same home for several years. Participants responded to questions on 25 environment related behaviors including water and energy use, commuting choices, and waste.
According to his research, people who received an intervention and had recently relocated reported more change eight weeks later on these 25 questions’ score level compared to participants who had not recently relocated.
These results were consistent in spite of the strength of previous habits and views. Verplanken will present his talk on Friday, January 20, 2017 at the SPSP Annual Convention.