10 ways to be a better person

Small steps

Get thinner, stop smoking, run three times a week. These are all great New Year’s resolutions. But how to make them stick? Just keep your promise to 2022 small and doable.
11 January om 14:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 January 2022
om 13:57 uur.
January 11 at 14:35 PM.
Last modified on January 12, 2022
at 13:57 PM.
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Door Mariam Jamureli

11 January om 14:35 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 January 2022
om 13:57 uur.
Avatar photo

By Mariam Jamureli

January 11 at 14:35 PM.
Last modified on January 12, 2022
at 13:57 PM.
Avatar photo

Mariam Jamureli

UG psychologist Arie Dijkstra specialises in behavioural change and modification. He knows how to make changes in your life. But: ‘You’re not a bad person if you don’t change every year.’

‘Making resolutions and having good intentions to change something is really at the core of who people are’, says Arie Dijkstra. ‘Evolution-wise, it’s how we adjust to environmental changes.’

Western culture focuses this longing for change around the start of the new year. That makes it easier to set and hold on to them. ‘You feel a bond with others—a kind of social norm, or pressure. It may be that there are commercial activities helping those who want to change. For example, there may be cheaper registrations at the gym on January 1.’ 


That cheaper gym registration might get you started, but it’s in no way a guarantee for success. ‘The pathway to new behaviours needs investment’, Dijkstra stresses. A successful resolution needs three things, he says. ‘Motivation, planning and execution of behaviour.’ If motivation and planning are suboptimal or the results afterwards do not meet your values, the resolution will most likely fail.

That means it’s better to make smaller changes in your life than big ones. They demand smaller investments. ‘This doesn’t mean that you will be more successful. It depends on the level of motivation, but generally, smaller investments need smaller motivation.’

Finally, resolutions should not be forced just for the sake of making one. ‘Resolutions are made on the basis of values.’ Values which define people and lead to happier lives if fulfilled. ‘Live according to your values and decide whether you have the need and motivation. You’re not a bad person if you don’t change every year.’

Neea Barden


Minorities and multilingualism

Be happy alone

‘I want to do more stuff on my own. Travelling on my own, going on solo walks, and doing sports without the need to be around other people in order to make my experience real. Very often, I end up staying home and missing out on something I would’ve enjoyed on my own, because there’s no one available. I feel I’ll be happier if I become more comfortable with being alone and I’ll probably enjoy spending time with people more if I don’t feel like they’re just tagging along.’

Jack Butterly


Economics and business economics

Do new things

‘I’d like to be more open to change and new adventures. I’d like to move by the end of the year to a new city, potentially a new country. I feel like it’s time to do something exciting and fresh. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a bit of a routine here, especially these past two years with the lockdowns. If I have to go for one more walk to pass the days around the city, I’m going to lose my mind; I know every stone on the pavement at this stage. I’m in a comfort zone here and I don’t want to be in a comfort zone in my mid-twenties.’

Yasmina Forsch


English language and culture (linguistics)

Water the plant

‘This year, I have given myself the tiny task of trying to keep a single plant alive. Up until now, I have killed every single plant that has come my way. I have a lot of dehydrated roses, because it’s much easier to dehydrate and kill something than it is to take care of it. But now, as I’m getting older, I need to create a routine. For plants, you need to be calm and organised. Two things I have not been, especially during this new lockdown and with doing a board year alongside my studies. So, by bringing in a second being to be responsible for, I’m taking a big step towards creating a more balanced life.’

Keziah Seifert



Feed the cat

‘My boyfriend has recently moved into his own place. Knowing that he grew up around loads of dogs, I could tell he was missing having a pet in Groningen. So, I got him a cat for his birthday and at the beginning I was helping out a lot, but then I stopped. So, I want to help him out by doing small things like cleaning the litter box and buying food. This way, he’ll have one less thing to worry about on top of all of his deadlines. Being actively aware of the cat’s needs while I’m shopping in the supermarket will shift my focus from myself and allow me to be more selfless.’

Foeke de Wolf


Spatial planning and design

Make a list

‘I want to improve my planning and studying, so I’m going to start making to-do lists. These will be lists with about twenty small things I need to do, such as taking cold showers, meditating, reading a chapter for my course, and so on. Instead of listing the big tasks, I will make it more digestible, so rather than writing down the entire assignment I have to do, I’ll write down that I need to read a chapter for it. I can then get satisfaction from ticking these boxes. Usually, a lot of things go on in my head and having a list will give more clarity to my life without forgetting to do the essential things.’

Emma Smith


Minorities and multilingualism

Focus on myself

‘I want to be more mindful of where I put my energy. This past year, I’ve constantly been putting other people’s tasks on my plate. Basically, I tend to overwhelm myself a bit too much with everything I need to do for others, and I worry a lot about letting people down. While I love doing things for and with people, I realise the beauty of focusing on and prioritising myself and what’s important to me.’

Rozemarijn Gierkink


Arts, culture and media


‘I’m a bit chaotic and forgetful sometimes, so I forget fun things I’ve done or interesting conversations I’ve had. This year, I bought a notebook and I want to write down a few sentences a day about the things I did and noticeable things that happened. I’m not really a writer, so it wouldn’t be a diary, but more a log of memories. I want to be able to read back what my friends told me, so that I can check up on them and ask how this and that is going. It’s nice to show people that you remember what they told you.’

Peter Wigram



Speak up

‘Instead of being silent, I want to say things to people, whether it’s complimenting them or asking about a change they’ve made to their appearance. It’s simple really, but hopefully effective. It’s easy to forget to show people that you are giving them the attention that they might otherwise not know they get. I always recognise that I appreciate it when people notice something about me and say it. So, a simple “Is that a new haircut? It looks great” goes a long way. Along with making others feel better, it feels like I’m also being truthful to myself by not hiding these thoughts, and actually showing what I’m thinking.’

Yara Aljundi



Do something for 30 minutes

‘I would like to spend at least thirty minutes every day doing something I should be doing. Like studying. During lockdown, I’ve gotten into this habit of thinking there’s always going to be another day to study, and I’ve got really lazy. So, dedicating at least thirty minutes each day to being productive hopefully won’t make me feel guilty at the end of the day. That way I’m also not being too hard on myself. I realised that if I’m in the flow for thirty minutes, I can continue studying for two or three more hours. And then I have time afterwards to do the things I like doing.’

Jim Jurre Boekhout


Human geography and planning

Don’t make children

‘My resolution this year is to not become a dad. That’s basically it. In general, I’m not into New Year’s resolutions. It’s always about improving yourself or changing, but I’m actually quite happy with not having children, so I’d like to keep this up. Now, most people don’t know that I’m gay. So, accidentally having a child as a man with another man is virtually impossible. In a way, this resolution is about me being open with myself. I do not want to change this part of my life and I want to reaffirm my identity in this way.’