Image Credits: Smart Sitting Blog 

With the Christmas holidays over and the spring semester in motion, I want to discuss the habit to ‘start fresh’ in January. Whether you have celebrated the new year, and whether or not you have subsequently made some new year’s resolutions, it seems to be a pre-established inclination for some people to better themselves in the event of the new year. Maybe it is because of the guilt of indulgence during the Christmas period, or the year has rushed past some, or we may be in need of regulating ourselves, but it is a common trend to set yourself goals to achieve throughout the course of the following year. Some of the most popular new year’s resolutions, according to Brad Zomick from Go Skills, involve: exercising more, losing weight, living life to the fullest, reading more, quitting smoking, spending more time with family/friends, etc. According to the same website, roughly half of those who set themselves resolutions are actually successful. That means that 1 in 2 resolutionists will give up or quit their goals for the year. There is a variance of reasons why one may give up their resolutions, but it calls into discussion why we bother to declare them in the first place. So my question is, are new year’s resolutions really worth making? 

Despite the typical trait for resolutions to become short-term efforts, there are many reasons why they are useful. The Christmas holidays tend to be the most widely-applicable break period to most people from work, school, care, etc. I appreciate that this does not apply to all professions and circumstances, as many employments and responsibilities of every kind do not incur a break even over Christmas. For those who are fortunate enough to have a break at Christmas, it makes the most sense to then reflect on the year that is coming to an end. What has been achieved, and what has been lost. So, a new year’s resolution is sensible for those who want to make reasonable goals to achieve for the next year, where there is no break until the next Christmas. For them, resolutions provide hope for the future, an aspiration to achieve, and a goal to strive towards. Sometimes that is what people need; something to work towards. Something to motivate you to get out of bed every day, to work harder, love more, learn more, try more, and to eventually feel fulfilled. To feel like you have done all you can to better yourself, so that by the end of the year you won’t feel the guilt of not becoming the version of yourself that you could, or should, be. Sometimes the distraction of a long-term goal can keep spirits high, and dull the monotony of everyday life that you experienced last year. It allows life to be play and work. Especially the feeling of achievement, at the end of the year after working so hard to accomplish your goals, is what keeps some going. 

But new year’s resolutions aren’t functional in every way. Why should we choose to start fresh only in January? Should we delay the choice to better ourselves until the start of the year? I understand that I have previously stated that the end of the year is when time for reflection has the most opportunity to take place. But if we really are unhappy with the way that we are living, in relation to  conditions that you are able to take some control of, then the free will of starting fresh should be embraced all year round. If the consensus is to change the climate of your well-being at a specific time of year, then aren’t we really just delaying the chance to do better? I can appreciate the reality that change is scary, and is not always easy to pursue, let alone pushing yourself to initiate change. Thus, I can appreciate the tendency for a large proportion of people to choose to make new year’s resolutions with the comfort of knowing that others are also pushing themselves too. Nevertheless, doesn’t this just promote an implicit competitiveness between resolutionists? Perhaps, the talk of ‘new year’s resolutions’, and the expectation to make them, is more damaging than beneficial? Let’s say, considering the popularity of these resolutions, that every person made the new year’s resolution to eat healthier and exercise more. Although it would have apparent benefits, this is not an ideal goal for every human being. Even if we all ate the same healthy diet, and followed the same workout plan, everyone would still look and feel completely different. Because, health looks different on everyone. Or let’s say that everyone made the same new year’s resolution to practice well-being exercises that benefit mental health; there would still be a variance in the general mental health of everyone who chooses to make that resolution. There is never going to be a universal result, and new year’s resolutions are not going to function well for everyone in the same way. If half of those who make new year’s resolutions are going to give them up anyway, and the other half are only going to cause those who didn’t make any to feel guilty, their worth seems to be lacking.

So I would say that my main doubts with new year’s resolutions are: they don’t function well for everyone, their promotion to only set long-goals/changes in well-being in the month of January, and their tendency to make others feel like they aren’t doing enough to better themselves. If setting goals for the future is what you need to help you through the year, and they will help you feel better, then you should absolutely set yourself some new year’s resolutions. But the key is to be realistic. Let yourself set goals that are possible to achieve, don’t make resolutions for the sake of it because it feels like everyone else is. Growth in well-being is never linear, so don’t expect yourself to be better this year compared to the previous year. When you do achieve those goals, appreciate your growth and acknowledge your accomplishments. However, if you haven’t set new year’s resolutions yet, or have already given them up, then maybe they’re not for you, and that’s okay. As long as you are able to acknowledge the things that you have control to improve in your life, and you are willing to work at it throughout the year, not just in January, then maybe you don’t need new year’s resolutions. They are only worth making if you need that encouragement for the next year ahead, and you like knowing that others are setting out their goals too. Don’t stress too much about constantly making yourself better, make the resolutions a long-term goal and something to work towards, make them fit around the main responsibilities of your daily life. Either way, don’t distance yourself too much from the person you want to be with unrealistic goals, because chances are you are much closer to being that person than you think.

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