New Years resolutions: Many make them, few follow through

On New Year’s Day, 45 percent of Americans made resolutions for the new year. The act of making feel-good promises for the next 12 months dates back to ancient times and has endured multiple transformations to become what it is today.

Only 8 percent of these individuals will achieve their goals in 2014, according to a recent article published by Time magazine.

According to data released on Jan. 1 by the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of Americans made at least one New Year’s resolution for 2014. These included goals such as weight loss, saving money and even falling in love.

Data produced by the journal also concluded that 47 percent of the top resolutions made by Americans included a goal in the self-improvement category.

The tradition of making feel-good resolutions at the start of a new year began with the ancient Babylonians, pre-dating Christianity. Babylonian citizens celebrated the new year on March 1st and made promises to their gods on the first day of each year to return borrowed items and repay debts.

During the time of the early Roman Empire, the date of the new year was changed to Jan. 1st. The word “January” is derived from the two-headed Roman god Janus. This god is said to have one face looking into the previous year in reflection while the other gazes hopefully to the future year ahead.
The Romans kept the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions as a way to affirm their moral character. Such resolutions as being good to neighbors and fellow citizens were introduced by the Romans.

As Christianity gained popularity in Rome, the tradition was converted from promises to prayers and fasting by those practicing the faith.

The custom of making resolutions came to the U.S. with the Puritans. Originally, they swore off the tradition, as it was not part of their faith. But eventually, the Puritans adapted their own version of New Year’s resolutions without having to acknowledge the pagan god Janus.

Popular Puritan resolutions revolved around self-improvement, which is a reflection of their particular faith practices.

Today, New Year’s resolutions cover many different categories. Popular goals range from weight loss and exercise to saving money, and even more personalized resolutions such as adopting a new a hobby.

According to Forbes Magazine, desiring self-improvement is what motivates over 40 percent of resolution-makers to participate in the tradition.

But is making a New Year’s resolution a good thing?

Many sources, including Time magazine, are saying that New Year’s resolutions can actually have a negative effect on the individual.

This is partially due to the individual’s choice of resolutions. Making an unrealistic goal such as dropping 30 pounds by March are doomed to fail, which can lead to even more discouragement. In addition, many Americans making resolutions set unrealistic timelines, believing that they can change a habit developed over a lifetime in a single month or even year.

But it is still possible to make a positive change motivated by a New Year’s resolution if it is handled realistically. While most Americans may not be praying to gods for good favor, it seems the tradition of resolutions is here to stay.

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