A day of resolution

There’s a lot (and I mean a lot) written at this time of year about making New Year Resolutions. Most of the time, I avoid the whole resolution fever as I think that if you want to change something, there’s nothing magical about 1st January that makes it any more likely that you’ll transform your life.  But then I got to thinking (dangerous), and for me thinking leads to research, which leads to yet more thinking. And before you know it, I’m writing an article about the very subject I was trying to avoid.

YouGov reports that most people (61%) said they would not be coming up with resolutions for the New Year, but a third (30%) said they would be.  The top resolutions were as follows:

Another article suggests that at least 40% of adults make one or more resolutions each year, with more than two-thirds of these pledges being about life-threatening health behaviours: smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. There is clearly a certain madness about this: if you want to change behaviour that’s seriously threatening your health, why wait until 1st January to do something about it? I suppose it allows us to have one last blowout over Christmas, stuffing our faces to excess, vegging out on the sofa with a glass of our favourite tipple in one hand and a fag in the other.

This second article started out by stating ‘the advent of each new calendar year constitutes a psychologically and culturally sanctioned opportunity for self-initiated change of problematic behaviours’ (I love the way some academics write!). And I suppose that’s the point – it’s nothing to do with logic, there’s just something about New Year that seems to make us want to make changes. It’s that new beginnings thing and being part of something bigger than just us as individuals making a decision. It’s a ritual, and rituals have a certain appeal.

But do New Year’s Resolution work? Popular belief is that they don’t. There has even been a name given to the point at which people’s resolve buckles: Fail Friday, which is the third Friday in January.  Apparently, the average length of time a person can expect to keep to their resolution is around three and a half weeks, with only three per cent of us being likely to keep strictly to a resolution for the full 12 months.

My current favourite academics however are more optimistic. When addressing the issue of whether New Year’s resolutions are successful, they sensibly ask “compared to what?”.  They then say that the success rate of resolutions is approximately ten times higher than the success rate of adults desiring to change their behaviour but not making a resolution. If you want to give yourself a fighting chance of making and sticking to your resolutions, here are a couple of approaches you might want to consider:

  • NHS Choices: 10 tips to make your New Year’s resolution a success
  • The Guardian: How to make a New Year’s resolution you won’t quit in a week

And if by any chance you fall foul of Fail Friday, you don’t have to wait until next January 1st to try again.  New Year is a moveable feast – you could try instead the Chinese New Year (28th January in 2017), the Spring Equinox (20th March in 2017), the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (starting at sundown on 20th September in 2017), the start of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar (21st September in 2017) or any one of the several other New Years celebrated by different cultures across the globe.