Achieving New Year’s Resolutions With ADHD

As you think about your New Year’s resolutions for 2024, there’s something you should know: most resolutions fail.

The simple fact of the matter is that changing your habits and lifestyle is hard — and even more difficult if you have ADHD.

None of this means that you shouldn’t attempt to make changes in the new year. While studies show that New Year’s resolutions often fail, they also show that people who do make New Year’s resolutions are more successful at making life changes than those who don’t.

To see success from your New Year’s resolutions, you need a plan that makes sense for you. Read on to learn what makes New Year’s resolutions so challenging, along with how to make resolutions you can actually keep.

Published: December 21, 2023

Table of contents

    How often do people succeed in keeping their New Year’s resolutions?

    There has been quite a bit of research conducted on the success rates of New Year’s resolutions, each with their own unique findings:

    • A 2002 study found that 46% of participants who made New Year’s resolutions succeeded in achieving their goals for the year, compared to 4% of those who made no resolutions. 

    • A 2007 study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman found that 88% of its 3,000 participants failed in maintaining their resolutions. 

    • A 2020 study by YouGov found that in 2019, only 3% of respondents stuck to all of their resolutions, and 8% stuck to some.

    • Another 2020 study found that 55% of people that made resolutions actually succeeded in keeping them, one of the highest positive results observed in any study. People who made “approach-oriented” goals were more successful than those with “avoidance-oriented” goals (58.9% vs. 47.1%). More on the differences between these later!

    While different studies on this topic have produced different results, one thing has remained consistent: many New Year’s resolutions fail, and most studies point to the majority of them failing.

    This isn’t to say that there’s no point to making New Year’s resolutions, as they can often be successful. And as the first study mentioned above proves, making a New Year’s resolution increases your likelihood of seeing a positive change versus not making one at all.

    However, recognizing the difficulty in sustaining New Year’s resolutions is crucial to making resolutions that you can actually stick to.

    What makes keeping New Year’s resolutions more difficult for people with ADHD?

    Yet another study on New Year’s resolutions, from 1988, found that 19% of participants maintained their New Year’s resolutions two years later. That study concluded that participants with greater willpower and who exercised more stimulus control were more likely to succeed in keeping their resolutions compared to those that didn’t. Unfortunately, willpower and stimulus control are two things that people with ADHD are more likely to struggle with compared to neurotypical people.

    While people with ADHD don’t necessarily lack willpower, there are elements of ADHD that make it more difficult for them to enforce it. People with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms may be more prone to impulsivity or “present bias”, causing them to make immediate actions with little regard to future consequences. People who experience ADHD and depression together can struggle with feeling motivated, making it more difficult to follow through on commitments (like New Year’s resolutions).

    Stimulus control refers to controlling stimuli in your environment that may encourage you to act in a particular way. For example, if you frequently snack while watching television, or get distracted by your phone while trying to focus on work, reducing your TV time or putting your phone away would be exercises in stimulus control. People with ADHD who are more prone to distraction, procrastination and impulsivity might find it more difficult to reduce negative stimuli.

    There are other challenges that people with ADHD face that can make it difficult to make the types of lifestyle changes most common in New Year’s resolutions, such as struggles with organization, planning, and self-medicating with food or substances. Acknowledging these challenges will make it easier to set resolutions you can actually keep — which we’ll get into next.

    ADHD treatment can make achieving your goals easier

    If you’re living with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD, you’re likely to face even greater challenges in making the types of lifestyle changes that most people set out to in their New Year’s resolutions.

    If you believe you might have ADHD — or know you do, but aren’t currently receiving treatment — Frida can help. Frida provides fully-virtual ADHD treatment to over 30,000 Canadians, covering everything from initial diagnosis to lifestyle changes and medication. 80% of Frida patients report increased hopefulness and feelings of self-worth within just 6 weeks of treatment.

    While finding treatment for ADHD through other public or private healthcare options can often be challenging, time-consuming and expensive, our mission at Frida is to make it easy, fast, and affordable.

    Find out if Frida is a fit for you by taking our simple 2-minute symptoms test.

    Setting ADHD-friendly New Year’s resolutions

    We’ve covered what can make New Year’s resolutions challenging (especially for people with ADHD), but that’s not why you’re here. You’re here to learn how you can make resolutions and actually stick to them, right?

    Here are our tips for setting — and keeping! — ADHD-friendly New Year’s resolutions:

    • Limit how many resolutions you set. Making the types of changes most common in New Year’s resolutions – such as improving your physical and mental health, your productivity, or your finances – is hard work. If you try to make too many changes at once, you’re more likely to burn out and abandon your resolutions altogether. Consider limiting yourself to 1–3 resolutions, focusing on the goals you’re most motivated to achieve and not committing yourself to things you’re unlikely to achieve.

    • Focus on approaches over avoidance. A 2020 study on New Year’s resolutions mentioned earlier found that people who set approach-oriented resolutions were more successful in keeping them compared to people who set avoidance-oriented resolutions. For example, “I want to lose weight” is an avoidance-oriented goal; “I want to be healthier” would be its approach-oriented counterpart. Approach-oriented goals help you stay focused on achieving positive outcomes vs. avoiding negative ones.

    • Improve your sleep. People with ADHD often struggle with sleep for a myriad of reasons, and the exhaustion that comes with sleep deprivation is likely to make it more difficult to focus on and achieve your goals. If this sounds like you, consider making resolutions around improving the quantity and quality of your sleep, which will make sticking to your other resolutions easier.

    • Track your progress. This can be as simple as reflecting at the end of each week if your actions are aligning with your resolutions (and ideally, writing it down). Having tangible evidence of your positive progress can help you sustain your motivation, and identifying if you’re veering off-track is necessary for course-correcting towards achieving your goals.

    • Find your support people. Research has shown that having someone in your life to support your resolutions can increase your chances of success. You can approach this in multiple ways. For example, you can share your resolution with someone you trust who can hold you accountable; you can find an expert who can help you take practical steps to achieve your goals (such as a financial advisor, nutritionist, medical expert or fitness coach); or you can join a group of people working towards similar goals (like a class or a fitness group).

    • Think of ways to reward yourself. The ADHD brain is attracted to novelty and craves rewards. Consider how you can build rewards into your resolutions that don’t totally undo them. If your goal is to get healthier, you can reward yourself with a “cheat day” where you eat what you want, or laze around playing video games. If you’re trying to improve your financial situation, consider how you can treat yourself to something you want without breaking your budget if you’ve otherwise been staying on track. Remember, the goal is to change how you approach your life, not to deprive yourself of pleasure — which can lead to you burning out and abandoning your resolutions entirely.

    • Be prepared for failure — and then keep going. The reality is that even if you succeed in your resolutions long-term, you’re unlikely to stick to them as consistently as you hope. And that’s totally OK – remember, the purpose is to make sustainable improvements to your life, not simply to check a box every day. Avoid thinking that not adhering to your resolution for a day, a week, a month or even longer means that you need to abandon them entirely. Instead, accept what happened and focus on how you can get back on track.

    Above all, be kind to yourself. Making big changes to how you live is tough, and the overall goal should be self-improvement, not self-punishment. By setting realistic goals, finding ways to make your resolutions fun, and persevering even when you fail, you can create the change you want to see in yourself!

    Frida Care Team

    We are a group of clinicians, continuous care support, writers, and creators who care deeply about patient care and ADHD. Together, we write content that we hope sheds light on ADHD and the health care space at large. You can reach us at if you have any questions!