“New Year, New Me” is, no question, a cliche. However, it is a great idea to make New Year’s Resolutions. Humans are different from animals because we need more than a belly full of food, a safe habitat and social interactions to fulfill us. Taking a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we see the the top two layers of the pyramid that we can work on once we have the bottom three. New Year’s Resolutions are essentially just goals that we set to help us build and strengthen this pyramid, no matter which of the five levels we want to work on.
The History New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s Resolutions aren’t a millennial trend, although we are the ones who began posting about them publicly on social media. It turns out that people have been making them for over 4,000 years!
“The first New Year’s resolutions date back over 4,000 years ago to ancient Babylon. The Babylonians are said to have started the tradition during Akitu, a 12-day New Year celebration.
During the Akitu festival, the ancient Babylonians would plant crops, crown a new king (or pledge their loyalty to the reigning king), and make promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any borrowed items. They believed that if they kept their word, the gods would look favourably on them for the year ahead. If the Babylonians broke their promises, they would fall on the bad side of their gods.
The history of New Year’s resolutions continued in ancient Rome. Emperor Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar in 46 B.C. which declared January 1st as the start of the new year. This new date honoured Janus, a two-faced god who symbolically looked back into the previous year and forwards into the new year. The Romans would offer sacrifices to Janus and make promises of good behaviour for the year ahead.
New Year’s resolutions were also made in the Middle Ages. Knights would renew their vow to chivalry by placing their hands on a live or roasted peacock. The annual “Peacock Vow” would take place at the end of the year, as a resolution to maintain their knighthood values.”Trafalgar
The Psychology Behind New Year’s Resolutions
Psychologists have a lot to say about our resolutions. Research shows that about half of all adults make New Year’s resolutions yet only 10% manage to keep them for more than a few months. The most common resolutions are: losing weight, doing more exercise, quitting smoking and saving money. The two main reasons that we as humans are so bad at sticking to them is due to behavioral addiction and/or false hope syndrome.
It is really easy to fall into bad habits and when we try to give them up, it is easy to relapse. Since many resolutions come in the form of lifestyle and behavioral changes, it can be hard to do. Our behaviors are routine and habitual, even when they are not problematic. Changing these permanently takes weeks of work.
False Hope Syndrome
Psychologists who study New Year’s Resolutions also point out that many of the goals we set are unrealistic to achieve. This can be part of false hope syndrome, which is characterized by a person’s unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease and consequences of changing their behavior. It can take something really significant to change a behavior, such as pregnancy or medical diagnosis.
How to Stick to Your Resolutions
Just because something is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. There are ways to stick to your resolutions, even if they are behavioral. Some tips include:
- Be realistic
- Start small
- Do one thing at a time
- Don’t limit yourself
- Write it down
- Make changes to your routines
- Define SMART goals
- Track your progress
- Reward small achievements
- Make it public
- Understand that you are human – you may slip up but you can get back on track!
Personally, I like make vision boards, read books on habit making, buy guided journals, and I’m considering getting a therapist and a life coach. There are many things that you can do to help yourself achieve goals if you really want to and take it seriously. This is true for any goals, not just New Year’s Resolutions.
Benefits of Making New Year’s Resolutions
It’s important to set goals regularly, but the New Year is a great time to do this because it feels like a fresh start. You’ll be way more successful if you revisit your resolutions regularly throughout the year, but simply writing a list is a great start. The thing about having goals is that they are positive wether or not you achieve them perfectly. It gives people something to look forward to and keep working towards. Making a resolution shows that you have the belief and hope in your ability to change habits and become a better you.
Humans have been making New Year’s Resolutions for 4,000 years, so you should consider joining the trend. Setting goals, both achievable and not, is great for self-growth. Thinking about what you want to accomplish or change and writing it down is the first step to living your best life. Consider taking the time to really dig deep and figure out what would make you happy.
Be as specific as possible – instead of ‘lose weight’ say ‘lose 5 pounds in January.’ If you don’t manage to do it, try again. You don’t need to wait until next year to try again. Plus, make sure to track any and all progress – you’ll be surprised how much you achieve without realizing! Personally, I find journals super helpful. Tomorrow, expect a blog post about various journals that can help you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions!
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