If you're one of those people who thinks New Year's resolutions are totally cliche and you're convinced they don't actually work, think again.
Psychological studies have proven the significant influence of the “fresh start effect” which, in essence, highlights the motivational powers that accompany occasions in life that represent new beginnings.
The nature of a new beginning is incredibly powerful because it represents a clean slate, another chance and a compelling reminder that you can separate your new-and-improved self from your past failures.
Here are a few reasons why there's so much more to making New Year's resolutions than just humoring a cliche ritual:
You're more likely to take action toward a long-standing goal when a special occasion encourages a fresh start
Certain special occasions carry somewhat subliminal "start fresh" messages with them. Your life milestones that suggest a fresh start include your 30th birthday, the beginning of a school year, moving to a new city, changing jobs and of course, the beginning of a new year.
These turning points encourage us to reflect on our lives, our behaviors and our habits.
We then become motivated to make positive changes. According to the “fresh start effect” studied by Psychologists Dai, Milkman and Riis, “people are more likely to take action towards a goal after temporal landmarks that represent new beginnings.”
The year ending is a crucial reminder of the passage of time
There's nothing more motivating than the reminder of time passing you by, and feeling as though time is running out to achieve certain goals.
Time waits for no one, so if you realize you haven't been using your time wisely, that'll be enough to trigger change.
When you realize another year has gone by, you're forced to reflect on how much you've been procrastinating and where you could have been by now if you procrastinated less.
The willpower we lacked all year is somehow injected into us when a clear reminder of time is forced upon us by all this talk of "the end of 2016."
You'll be excited to start over, and all you have to do is ensure that you keep that momentum going past January and throughout the entire year.
A New Year creates an opportunity for a clean slate and self-improving actions
A date that marks the beginning of a new year is also a clear transition point, which nudges you to want to transition into someone better.
You'll suddenly feel committed to change, and you'll adopt a new mentality that is more goal-oriented and focused.
The fresh start effect can help business owners become more profitable in the new year, it can help people suddenly get fit, it can encourage money-saving habits to be mastered, and much more.
Your new disposition will open plenty of doors for you in 2017, as long as you don't let the fresh start effect wear off come February.
With your more driven attitude and a renewed mentality, you'll find ways to do life better in 2017. You'll start actually doing something productive on your lunch breaks (like listening to an educational podcast or spending it at the gym), you may start budgeting your money better, or maybe you'll begin to re-think the social media strategy for your blog.
By keeping hold of this newfound betterment throughout the year, you could have the most successful year of your life.
A New Year puts distance between the old you and the new you
Psychologically speaking, you're able to distance yourself from your bad habits and self-destructive behaviors as long as you group those behaviors as the "2016" you, and therefore attribute any positive changes to the "2017" you. It's that mental separation that spurs change.
When you're getting ready to ring in the new year, you'll feel motivated to leave your bad habits behind, since those negative qualities belong in the past with your past self.
I was a psychology major so you bet your ass I'll throw shade at anyone who says New Year's resolutions are cliché.
In their study entitled The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior, Psychologists Dai, Milkman and Riis explain that a new year is a temporal landmark that can result in people psychologically separating themselves from their past imperfections and becoming inspired to change:
Temporal landmarks may serve as one type of disruption to decision making and thus direct attention to high-level, goal-relevant information.
In other words, our focus is shifted in the New Year because we're pushed to look at the bigger picture, acknowledge bad habits and note what needs to be changed.
Suddenly, our attention is diverted and we're goal-oriented once again. Why do you think your local gym is suddenly so busy come January?
The fresh start effect can help you identify yourself with success
A new-and-improved 2017 version of you can do wonders for your self-confidence and your self-image. With positive changes, you'll start identifying yourself with success and become more positive.
The fresh start effect truly encourages this new self-image to manifest and pushes you to reinvent yourself. Dai, Milkman and Riis point out that it's only natural to want to adjust your behaviors to align with the new and improved you:
Temporal landmarks psychologically distance the current self from past imperfections, propelling people to behave in line with their new, positive self-image.
The lesson? Don't underestimate the power of the new year. Embrace the opportunity to better yourself and don't look back.