Humans are wont to misbehave when no one is watching. Hence the psychology of the New Year's resolution: Kick off the New Year with a public declaration of the stuff you want to fix about yourself. The problem is that during those long, listless winter months, it's easy for your attention, and your resolve, to drift away from your self-improvement goals.
Whether you're looking to get happy, get in shape or get just about anything else, though, it turns out that smartphone apps can help keep you on track, mostly by tracking your behavior and reminding you - and sometimes your friends - how you're doing.
These 11 excellent apps can help turn sadly failed resolutions into proudly achieved goals:
Write It All Down
Being accountable to Facebook friends is great, but making any kind of life change is best paired with a bit of introspection. Journal-keeping apps can be a great way to check in with yourself, no matter what your goals are. Keeping a basic daily record of even simple stuff (have a headache Monday? Feel energized after your Tuesday workout?) can be a powerful glimpse into health and mood patterns that have a big say in breaking bad habits and building new ones.
Get Fit With Friends
These hybrid social/fitness apps do it all - and they don't even yell at you for more reps. There are a ton of social fitness apps in the various app stores, so it's best to experiment and see which ones emphasizes the aspect of that whole health thing that resonates with you. These four a great place to start your search: Designed around data and sharing, they all have the social boost you might be lacking built right in.
Start Saving Money Right Now
The hardest part of saving money can be that first peek at your bank account - and Mint is the perfect solution. Elegantly designed, Mint keeps a rich record of your expenditures and breaks it all down into categories that help you figure out your spending habits. If you love data, you'll be strangely thrilled to pore over your weekly bank statements. Personal finance has never looked so good.
Tackle Any Challenge
Can't even bring yourself to get started on your resolutions? Unstuck is all about the first step. The app (for iPad only) asks you a series of questions and sculpts your path to action. It's surprisingly effective at dissolving the barriers between planning and action, with a fresh user interface that can even make paying off a bill feel like fun.
Getting Healthy, Gamified
SuperBetter, designed by gaming advocate Jane McGonigal, is an experiment in gamifying health. McGonigal applies her deep understanding of the psychology of games to a wide array of health goals. The app (for iOS only, unfortunately) is a companion to the SuperBetter website, where most of the action happens. SuperBetter's holistic approach puts equal emphasis on happiness and de-stressing, and its playful, video game-like achievement system really works.
Quit Smoking For Real This Time
Quitting smoking tops a lot of resolution lists for a reason: namely, it's really, really hard. You can use one of the general-purpose apps on this list to help you cut out the cancer sticks, but this duo of apps is designed to target smoker-specific challenges and milestones. With features like social support, time tracking and a savings calculator, these apps tackle the nasty habit from all angles.
Tracking your behavior and tapping into a networks of folks all working on working on themselves is a surefire way to make those resolutions last at least a little bit longer into 2013. Worst case scenario, you'll still have tucked away some cool aggregated data about yourself.
Best case? Maybe you'll pay off the interest on that interest.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.