Do New Year’s Resolutions Help?

by Catherine Arjet

opinions editor


It seems that New Year’s resolutions always fall into the same pattern. You make them in the last few days of December, then during the first part of January you try really hard to spend less money, eat better, or whatever you decided to do. By mid January you’ve probably modified your resolution. Working out everyday become working out three times a week. Doing your homework as soon as it’s assigned becomes doing it within 24 hours of getting it. By this point in the year, you may have abandoned your resolution all together. You then spend the next 11 months not thinking about it, until some time in December when you find a new one and the cycle starts over again.

New Year’s resolutions can seem naive, impractical or overly optimistic, and the cynics will tell us that the New Year is just an arbitrary day and that nothing actually changes between December 31st and January 1st, so we might as well make resolutions any day of the year. Are we fooling ourselves thinking we can somehow force personal change and growth by or can “new year, new me” actually become a reality?

While I don’t think you can wake up on the morning of the 1st and quit all your former bad habits cold turkey, I do think there is some merit in making resolutions. If nothing else, even if you only keep it for a month, that’s a month of self-improvement. Sure it’s not as good as a whole year, but it’s better than nothing. Of course, around 8 percent of people really do commit and follow through with their New Year’s resolutions. For those people, New Year’s resolutions aren’t silly or wishful thinking, they’re how they made positive changes in their lives. So why not go ahead and make a resolution? Maybe you’re in the 8 percent.

I do, though, see some downsides in New Year’s resolution culture. For one thing, a lot of people seem to make them not because they actually want to commit to changing some aspect of their life, but because they feel like they should. This can lead to people making resolutions they don’t actually care about and abandon quickly, which feeds into the idea that resolutions never work and discourages people from even trying. However, in my opinion, the real downside to New Year’s resolutions is that they might discourage us from breaking old bad habits or forming new good ones in the middle of the year. By setting up times, like the New Year, where everyone tries to improve themselves, we’re subtly saying that you need an excuse to start being a better you. This, of course, allows you to put it off, telling yourself you’ll start (or stop) whatever it is in the new year, or the new semester, or whenever instead of working on the issue when you notice it.

So what’s the remedy for this cultural procrastination on self improvement? Start anywhere. Whether it’s January 1st or March 24th, any day is just as good as any other to start self improving. If you still have your New Year’s resolution, keep at it. If you don’t, start it (or a new one) back up again if you think it will really change improve your life.

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