How to Be Happier in 2021, According to Research

The answer may lie in making your resolutions about more than just you.

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The start of a new year is when we turn over a new leaf, often in the form of a New Year's resolution. We've all been there. Big resolutions leave us wanting more and are usually ditched after the first few weeks of the year. A recent study might have found a way to give us something we all could use a bit more of in the wake of 2020: happiness and motivation. Sounds too good to be true? We dove into why researchers at the University of Rochester are saying resolutions should be about more than just you.

A new study in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology looked at how people's desire for relationships affect their well-being. They looked at three profiles of people from a variety of backgrounds: those who were disengaged from relationships, those who desired interpersonal relationships and those who desired community relationships. They found that those who desired community relationships had the highest overall well-being, with those disengaged from relationships having the lowest sense of well-being. We see this in sports all the time. If an athlete devotes their game, match or race to someone they care about, they are more likely to find that extra push.

So what does this have to do with your New Year's resolutions? Maybe more than you think. This research can be interpreted to assume that having others in mind can boost your motivation to pursue a goal, and your satisfaction in achieving it. For example, resolving to exercise more, so that you can play at the park with your kids will make you happier and more likely to follow through than just wanting to lose a pant-size. Bringing more people into your goal automatically adds accountability, as well. If you want to try something new, find a group to do it with, like a yoga studio, running club or cooking class.

No New Year's resolution is perfect, and often we bite off more than we can chew. Break goals down into small, concrete steps to make them more manageable and sustainable. Also think of why you want to make a change in the first place. This research shows that making your goals focus on your relationships with others can help you feel motivated and happier in the long run.

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