Planning how to manage a bad mood could help avoid failing your New Year’s Resolution

Bad moods could cause us to quit our New Year’s resolutions according to research by the University of Sheffield on how negative moods and high levels of emotion can lead to risky and impulse behaviour.


The research, which was published in the British Journal of Social Psychology in June 2012, investigated whether having a plan specifying how to deal with a bad mood could help break the link between moods and risky behaviour.

Experts from the University’s Department of Psychology found that people can strategically avoid the detrimental effects of a bad mood by forming a plan designed to control their actions.

Participants were asked to finish the sentence “If I am in a negative mood, then I will…” by selecting one of a series of different strategies, such as breathing deeply or thinking positive thoughts. Planning in this way helped to reduce the impact of bad moods on risky and impulsive behaviour.

Dr Thomas Webb from the University said: "Translating goals into action is a complex process fraught with potential obstacles. A substantial proportion of people, even those who are highly motivated, fail to attain their goals. In fact, research suggests almost one third of people who make resolutions keep them for less than one week.

"Considerable evidence now suggests that deciding when, where, and how to act in advance can help people to stick to their goals. This type of plan is called an 'implementation intention' and specifies both a good opportunity in which to act and a suitable response to that opportunity.

"In the research, we asked participants to form implementation intentions specifying how they would deal with a bad mood. Participants were asked to complete the sentence 'If I am in a negative mood, then I will…' with one of the following strategies; breathe deeply, think only positive thoughts, think 'it is only a mood' and I will not let it bother me, and think how I have successfully dealt with other situations.

"We found that planning in this way helped to reduce the impact of bad moods on risky and impulsive behaviour. The implication is that making this sort of plan might help people to stick to their New Year’s resolutions."

Additional information

To view the paper online visit:

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.


For further information please contact:

Paul Mannion
Media relations officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9851