Advice: Don’t make New Year’s resolutions

The arrival of a new year represents a new beginning for many, and that’s a big reason that resolutions are often made in anticipation of a calendar change.

People often aim too high with their resolutions, of which less than a tenth are maintained. And when persons fall short of their goals, they many times develop a sense of guilt that magnifies their other problems.

“Our new year’s resolution should be not to make one,” said Pine Bluff’s Dr. Nancy Ryburn, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. “If you’re doing something simple, that’s OK. If you want to do better in school or visit grandmother more, that’s fine, but most people fail because they try to do things that are too big.

“I encourage people to do things to improve themselves throughout the year, and not to take on too much at a time. Don’t set yourself up for a problem. Don’t take on too much. Simply do whatever helps within reason. Too many people resolve to lose weight, and then they try to join a gym in January when gyms usually become too crowded to accommodate everyone. Then people get frustrated and give up and blame themselves for not being able to succeed.”

Ryburn says that as far as she’s concerned, there’s only one exception to her rule on avoiding new year’s resolutions.

“If it’s a life-changing decision, something like getting help for a gambling addiction or entering an Alcoholics Anonymous program, then it should be done,” she said.

According to the University of Scranton, Pa., Journal of Clinical Psychology, losing weight was the No. 1 resolution in 2012. Other popular choices were becoming better organized, saving more money, enjoying life more, becoming fit, quitting smoking, falling in love and spending more time with family members. Self-improvement or education-related resolutions rate above the others in popularity.

The university study shows that while 45 percent of Americans usually make new year’s resolutions, 38 percent never participate in the ritual. Among those who do, maturity doesn’t translate into success as 39 percent of resolution makers in their 20s achieve their goals while just 14 percent of those over 50 succeed.

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is religiously based in part. In watch night services, many Christians have long prepared for the coming year by praying and making resolutions.