Why do we make New Year’s resolutions and what are the most popular choices?
‘New year, new me’ - we’ve all heard this phrase a million times, right? December was a heavy month, filled with sugary mince-pies, greasy turkey sandwiches and multiple glasses of prosecco to ring in the New Year. Everybody has to do something to make themselves feel better, otherwise how could we possibly live with all the calorific guilt the end of New Year’s celebrations brought us. The solution? – a New Year’s resolution. A promise we make to ourselves to accomplish a certain thing or break a bad habit. It’s a chance for us to look back on the old year and vow to ourselves not to make the same mistakes as last year which will surely lead to ‘improving ourselves’, that’s if we’re able to keep these resolutions!
New Year’s Resolutions originate from the ancient Romans. The month of January is named after their mythical god ‘Janus’who had two faces – one looking forward and one looking backward. With his faces he could look back on the past and forward to the future into the New Year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make New Year’s resolutions, believing Janus would see this and bless them for the New Year. Overtime this tradition was observed by many Christian religious societies, who would make promises to give up bad behaviours and be free of any remorse for New Year, reforming their character. Naturally this became a common practice seen in all parts of society.
Today, any religious meaning has been abandoned and now resolutions often focus on changing and bettering one’s healthy self. Particularly in the 1960’s and 70’s, a fitness and health boom resulted in changing attitudes towards a healthy lifestyle, which led to the formation of health-related resolutions. In the UK the top 3 resolutions are, exercise more (38%), lose weight(33%) and eat more healthy (32%). USA is similar with eating healthier (37%) being the top, and exercising more (37%) / saving more money (37%) being number two. Although the resolutions are typically a Western concept, the tradition has very much caught onto China too. China is similar to the West in that fitness and getting into shape is the most common resolution, but they also place importance on other things like spending more time with family.
The immense popularity of such New Year’s Resolutions can be seen as a money-making opportunity for many brands. Health and fitness resolutions can be a gold mine for health-related organisations, such as gyms. Gyms often see a huge increase in membership purchases at the beginning of the year, in the UK it’s estimated that around a third of new members for the gym join in January and February. Other brands see value in resolutions too – American fast-food chain ‘Chipotle’ has just launched a new collection of healthy lifestyle burrito bowls, looking to capitalise on those wishing to eat healthy this year.
Unfortunately the reality of New Year’s resolutions is that they are often broken. Previous studies have shown that less than 25% of people stick to their promise after January and a mere 8% actually achieve their goal. There are several reasons why they fail, one being that resolutions are often too general, e.g. ‘lose weight’, people need to make it more specific (lose 1 stone within 3 months) setting smaller, realistic and achievable goals is much better. Another is that the process can be boring, we humans only have a short attention span and working out every day on the treadmill is far more unappealing than the belly fat we gain from a chocolate bar! Working out with a friend or joining a club with your favourite sport can make it much more interesting and far easier to stick to your resolutions. Soon enough the year will be over and you can start thinking of your next ones…!