top of page

New Year's resolutions - maintaining health-promoting behavior changes over the long term

Who doesn't know the New Year's resolutions? - in the new year I will stop smoking - in the new year I will exercise more - in the new year I will eat healthier, etc.

At the beginning of the year, the motivation to carry out undertaken behaviors is high. However, after a short time it is observed that behavioral changes are often not realized or quickly abandoned. Why is this and what can you do about it?

Sustaining resolutions requires sufficient stamina and willpower. You must be convinced that the behavior is necessary for you. Likewise, you should be firmly committed to change.

Behavior change is a complex and difficult process through which you progress from a risky behavior to a health-promoting behavior. For example, from sitting a lot to moving more.

This process can be broken down into five motivational stages, which are usually progressed through in sequence:

- Intentionlessness

- Intention formation

- Preparation

- Action

- Maintenance

You spend different amounts of time in each stage. In addition, for successful behavior change, it is important to go through all stages and implement all relevant change processes. Otherwise, the risk of relapse into old habits is significantly increased. However, linear progression through the various stages is the exception rather than the rule, as relapses do occur.

First stage "Intentionlessness"

In this stage you are not yet motivated to practice a new behavior. For example, after work you are drawn directly to the living room in front of the TV, where you end your evening. Your partner wants to motivate you to exercise every time, but you lack interest and inner incentive to start a new behavior. Besides the imposition of a behavior from the outside, other reasons for the lack of motivation could be: resignation due to several unsuccessful attempts at change or lack of information about the effects of lack of exercise, chronic stress and unbalanced diet. If you find yourself in this stage, for example, educate yourself about the consequences of a lack of exercise or the effects of unhealthy eating behaviors. Take some time to evaluate new goals.

Stage Two "Setting Intentions"

In this stage, you are already consciously addressing your behavior. At this point, however, you are not yet making a change, because the pros and cons of changing your behavior balance each other out. But you play with the idea to change something in the near future. For example, you know that exercise would do you good, but the effort is too great. Therefore, write down convincing answers to the question "Why change your behavior?

Third stage "Preparation"

Now you are highly motivated and have made the decision to change your behavior. You can tell if you have reached this stage by the fact that you have already taken the first steps towards the target behavior. For example, you have already enrolled in a gym. Furthermore, try to concretize your goals at this stage: What exactly do you want to achieve? Also write down intermediate goals that you can achieve more quickly to generate a sense of accomplishment. Look for support possibilities in your environment and make a plan by determining training days and contents.

Fourth stage "Action"

Now the visible behavior change occurs. At this point, you have been practicing the appropriate behavior for a short time. You have now reached the most active phase in the process of behavior change. Because of the high effort required at the fourth stage, there is a great danger of reverting to old habits and relapsing to earlier stages. For example, you may have a lot on your plate and feel too tired to work out after work. To combat this, try making a contingency plan for yourself by reducing your workouts to a fixed day or the amount of workouts you do. As soon as you have more time, increase the number of training days. Avoid stopping the entire workout right away. Focus your attention on your first successes and what you have already achieved up to this point. Even the small steps lead to your goal!

Finally, it must be said that suffering a relapse is not a reason to stop sticking to one's resolutions. Because relapses are normal and are understood as an integral part of the change process. So consciously go back a step or two and think about what failed. Reconsider your strategies and modify them in order to consolidate your behavior and to get one step further again.

We wish you a happy new year, lots of motivation and perseverance in implementing your health-promoting behaviors!


Mattukat, K. & Mau, W. (2017). Wie motiviert sind ehemalige Rehabilitanden mit entzündlich-rheumatische Erkrankungen zu sportlicher Aktivität Erkenntnisse vor dem Hintergrund des Transtheoretischen Modell der Verhaltensänderung. Aktuelle Rheumatologie, 42(2), 162-174. DOI: 10.1055/s-0042-1164.

Ströbl, V. (2007). Überprüfung des Stufenkonzeptes im Transtheoretischen Modell der Verhaltensänderung am Beispiel sportlicher Aktivität. Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Philosophische Fakultät ll.

Titze, S. & Stronegger, W. (2002). Deutschsprachige Rekonstruktion der Strategien der Verhaltensänderung nach dem Transtheoretischen Modell – analysiert bei Teilnehmerinnen eines Frauenlaufs. Sozial- und Präventivmedizin, 47, 251-261. DOI: 10.1007/BF01326406.

Von dem Berge, U. (2012). Zu Verhaltensänderungen motivieren. Psyche Pflege Heute, 18(5), 239-25. DOI: 10.1055/s-0032-1327013.

Von dem Berge, U. (2012). Zu Verhaltensänderungen motivieren. Psyche Pflege Heute, 18(5), 239-25. DOI: 10.1055/s-0032-1327013.

4 views0 comments


bottom of page