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January brings about a new year, a new semester and, for some UNC students, a new spin on old habits. 

Tory Greene, a first-year, said her resolutions are to get good grades this semester, stay healthy and maintain a good relationship with herself and mental health.

“This is my first semester at Chapel Hill because I'm a transfer student, so I just want to have a good time with my classes and get good grades and meet new people while I'm here,” Greene said

Associate professor of psychology and neuroscience Steven Buzinski researches the social, situational and psychological processes that influence judgment and decision-making — which involve self-regulation and self-control.

He said during specific demarcations in time, like the new year, people are more motivated to improve things in their life. This is called the "Fresh Start Effect."

“There's reason to believe that when you use some kind of fresh start, or a new month, a new year and even just a new week starting on Sunday or Monday, there's something about it that increases our motivation, at least temporarily, to pursue these things,” Buzinski said

This type of temporary motivation can be ineffective if someone doesn't set their goals correctly. 

He recommended setting a fixed goal with guidelines and making that goal measurable and time-bound.

For instance, he said if someone would like to read more, they should choose a specific time to pick up a book every day or week and then, it becomes a decision they don't have to make in the moment anymore.

Buzinski himself would like to carve out time to write consistently and practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu. 

"Just treat yourself kindly and realize that willpower is not the solution, so if you're are just trying to will yourself through something and you're failing, that is not a moral failing," he said.

Buzinski said that people may feel the need to set idealistic resolutions because they overestimate the amount of other people doing the same.

“It's this classic peer pressure effect of 'Well, if everybody's setting them, I don't want to fall behind, or I don't want to be left out of that group,'” he said.

Amaya Harris, a UNC student,said she finds it disheartening to see how companies and programs push certain goals onto people in the new year.

“I think it's a bad tradition to have people set all these huge goals at the beginning of the year and if they fail a little bit because the goals are too high, they end up getting rid of the goal and no longer trying to work towards it,” Harris said.

First-year Aynsley Szczesniak said that there is a feeling of guilt and shame that comes with breaking resolutions. This year, she said she decided to reframe her mindset

“I took a different approach this year, and I decided to focus more on my goals for the year and the kind of person that I hope to become, rather than changes that I want to make to myself, things that I'm unhappy about,” she said.

One of her goals is to hone her organizational and time management skills, she said. Throughout the year, she also hopes to continue to develop what she learned about herself in the past and focus her time on the strengths that define who she is.

However, she said New Year’s can often create a toxic environment. She said the internet has become a "melting pot" of unrealistic expectations for personal change. 

She said that she tries to step away from the feeling of judgment and pity, and remind herself that there are people who appreciate her the way she is.

"I think one of the things that I have found to be really helpful in avoiding those pressures is just surrounding yourself with good people," Szczesniak said.

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