New Year’s resolutions are an annual ritual for millions across the United States and world — but where you live might harm your chances of success, according to a new report.
Some cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, make it easier to keep a resolution because they have gyms galore, plentiful sidewalks and good job prospects, personal finance website WalletHub’s ranking of 183 American cities found.
Cities at the bottom of the ranking, such as Detroit and Gulfport, Mississippi, have fewer health food stores, poorer sleep habits, higher levels of credit card debt and other characteristics that could make it harder to stick to a resolution, WalletHub’s report said.
“These might sound like excuses to the boldest resolvers, but they genuinely can get in the way of self-improvement,” Adam McCann, a financial writer, said in WalletHub’s report. “That’s especially true if your motivation is low to begin with.”
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WalletHub’s ranking included the 150 most populous cities in the United States, and at least two of the most populous cities from each state. The ranking broke down resolutions into five types: health, financial, school and work, bad habit breaking and relationships. Some cities fared well in one category, but not in another. A total of 56 metrics were used to figure out the chances of success in each city.
Cities that made the top 40 in the overall rankings were as diverse as Miami, Florida; Boise, Idaho; Sacramento, California; Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; and Overland Park, Kansas.
Cities in the bottom 40 included Wichita, Kansas; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Georgia; Hialeah, Florida; Nampa, Idaho; and Gulfport, Mississippi, in last place.
The report said the metrics were chosen to determine which cities have “the most favorable conditions for achieving one’s New Year’s goals.”
But some of the metrics used to determine the likelihood of resolution success — obesity rates, poverty rates, gambling rates — seem like the sort of problems that lead to resolutions in the first place. Other metrics — number of fitness centers, poor job security, unaffordable housing — read more like stumbling blocks to success than problems requiring resolutions themselves.
Successful resolutions are rare, no matter where people live.
Around 40 percent of Americans make a resolution each year, but only 46 percent of resolution-makers are sticking to it six months later, as McClatchy reported last year.
That’s not as bad as it sounds: Resolutions are hard to accomplish (that’s why we make them) but actually creating the goal makes it more likely you’ll follow through. Only 4 percent of people who wanted a change but didn’t make a resolution accomplished the goal within six months, according to Dr. John Northcross, a clinical psychologist at the University of Scranton.
“[Resolution makers] move from thinking about it to doing it — what we call from the contemplation stage — to the action stage,” Northcross told NPR in 2008.
Besides making a resolution in the first place — and moving to a city with the environment to get it done — how can goal-setters boost their chance of success?
One idea is to think of the goal not as a resolution, but as a new skill to pick up, dietician Jae Berman wrote in the Washington Post.
“In other words, you shouldn’t resolve to become a vegetarian with the expectation that meat will never pass your lips again, and then feel failure when you succumb to a Big Mac,” Berman wrote. “Instead, consider resolving to learn to be a vegetarian, with the understanding that it will take knowledge and practice to attain a meat-free diet — just as it would take knowledge and practice to learn to play tennis or knit or carve wood.”