New Year’s resolutions: past and present


Each year, millions of people around the world make a New Year’s resolution, or a promise to themselves to reach a particular goal in the new year.

According toReader’s Digest, some of the top New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, saving more money, traveling more, and spending more time with family and friends. A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a scientific journal, found that participants thought both enjoyment and importance are notable factors in whether they stick to their resolutions.

The researchers found the enjoyment aspect to be the main reason people would stick with their goals. If they felt instant gratification and felt they got rewarded from their resolution they would stick with it.

Lifestyle coach Erin Falconer, in her book “How to Get Sh*t Done”, says to avoid using the word “should” because it can be associated with shame, guilt, and an “absence of decision”. Non-committal words can lead people away from their goals.

Harvard University researcher Teresa Amabile discovered that progress is the greatest motivator in achieving a goal. Our culture today promotes buying things to reward ourselves, but research has found that getting multiple tasks done in a day is more rewarding.

Amabile also said it is okay to reward yourself, but make sure to do it in a healthy way, giving the example of not rewarding yourself with a drunken night out. The researcher gives the healthy examples of spending quality time with a friend, or investing in a fitness class.

New Year’s resolutions help many people to begin a positive new chapter in their lives and can encourage productivity year-round.

Freshman Mara Benton found a quote online which she ‘fell in love’ with, and she made it her resolution.

“My resolution is to ‘withhold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection’,” Benton said. “Too often we tire ourselves out trying to…be perfect rather than learning and growing at our own pace.”

New Year festivities have been going on for over 4,000  years and can be traced back to the Babylonians’ records according to The Economist. Their years were based on agricultural seasons, starting with the spring equinox. Akitu was a 12 day festival that honored the renewal of life and marked the start of the agrarian year.

During this celebration, people wanted to be in good favor with the gods, so they promised to repay their debts and to return borrowed objects. The Romans and Egyptians participated in a similar ritual, but the Romans however, changed the date on which festivities were held.

The Roman year originally consisted of 10 months, starting with the spring equinox in March until two more months were added in 700BC. In 153 BC, Janus, a mythical king of early Rome, was placed at the head of the calendar. Janus had two faces, and could look back at past and forward to future events. The king became a symbol for resolutions.

In 46 BC, Julius Caesar proposed a new calendar where January would mark the beginning of each year. This was also the month that newly elected officials would begin their term and it marked the shift from an agrarian to civil calendar.

The term “new year’s resolution” first appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1813, and it is still utilized to this day. According to research by the University of Scranton however, only 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals.


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