An expert on the psychology and neuroscience of self-control and addiction at the University of Southern California, John Monterosso, has offered six tips this holiday season for sticking to new year's resolutions.

Outlined in an article on the USCDornsife site, Monterosso provides pointers for giving a grounded, realistic perspective to the tradition of drafting resolutions.

Failed resolutions are not harmless

Failing feels bad, and knocks our confidence in our ability to do something, which can make us feel less able to keep our resolutions. Studies have shown that failure can lead to worse behaviour, something Monterosso thinks is worth bearing in mind when trying to keep those resolutions.

Resolutions work by linking single decisions to a bigger picture

Remember that breaking the resolution for something small, for example just to have one cigarette when you are trying to stop smoking, can have bigger implication. Instead of thinking 'what is the harm with just one cigarette,' think about the bigger picture: 'If I give in and smoke the cigarette, then my resolution is out the window.'

Consider being less ambitious when it comes to resolutions

People can be overconfident about their ability to make changes and stick to resolutions. Even when we have failed before, we are still optimistic that this time will be different, which can lead to unrealistic goals and therefore further failure. Monterosso advises that it is best to know yourself and what you can realistically do when setting goals.

Make resolutions that are precise, not vague

Make your resolutions clear and specific for a better chance of success.

A resolution such as, 'Be nice to my spouse' is too vague, and what constitutes as 'nice' can change. Instead, try making a more specific resolution such as, 'I will not raise my voice with my spouse,' he outlines as an example.

The new year is a fresh start

Instead of dwelling on past failures, which can lead to us feeling like we cannot keep the new resolution and giving up, remember that January 1 is a new chance to get it right in a new year. The failed resolutions now belong to last year.  

 Even successful resolutions can be mistakes

Even if you are successful with your resolutions, people can take them too far. Eating too little or exercising too much in order to lose weight, or never enjoying life in order to save money, resolutions can do more harm than good. Monterosso again suggests knowing yourself and what you are and aren't capable of, and using your judgement to find a balance.

"I think at their best, resolutions play a role in great human achievements," Monterosso said. "But, they can cause suffering, as well. It pays to be thoughtful in how they are used. Good resolving is a bit of an art."