Do New Year’s Resolutions Really Last?
January 20, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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Making new year’s resolutions is a practice that can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Babylonians; however, this tradition has evolved, with the advancement of the internet and social media, into just another example of superficiality. Although some seem to make genuine new year’s resolutions, the vast majority of people nowadays make a “resolution” simply to brag on Twitter, even though they won’t go to the gym more than a few times in the month of January.
The new year’s resolution phenomenon stems from the psychological fault that many humans have when they believe in the “new year, new me” mantra. If it wasn’t for the calendar stating the new year, no one would know that the year has changed. January 1st is just another day, and although positive life changes should be celebrated, they should happen year-round, not just when the calendar changes from 2016 to 2017. They should not be used just to get views on YouTube, likes on Instagram, or retweets on Twitter.
Junior Ariana Stratton agrees with this point. New year’s resolutions are “unnecessary,” she said. “You can make a resolution any time.”
An additional problem with new year’s resolutions in today’s society is the failure associated with them. Everyone seems to have a new year’s resolution, although no one seems to actually accomplish it. A life change without the attachments of the “new year” would mean more to the person making it and would most likely be accomplished.
In fact, the incessant failure of new year’s resolutions is scientifically rooted in psychology. Social psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy researched the reasoning behind failed new year’s resolutions, and said they may do “more harm than good.”
“We’re really bad at setting reasonable goals,” Cuddy told Business Insider, and when people are unable to meet these unreasonable goals, the feeling of failure makes it more difficult to stay on track.
Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University, has also done research on the psychology of new year’s resolutions.
“The main reason that people don’t stick to their resolutions is that they set too many or they’re unrealistic to achieve,” Griffiths stated in an article on The Conversation that people who make new year’s resolutions “may also be victims of ‘false hope syndrome’. False hope syndrome is characterized by a person’s unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease and consequences of changing their behavior.”
The main problem with new year’s resolutions, according to Cuddy, is the way that people word them. Wording a lifestyle change with absolutes, such as “I will go to the gym three times every week,” sets up a blatant failure. Also, making resolutions too vague, such as “I’ll do my homework more” doesn’t motivate enough, and are therefore useless.
Instead, the most effective new year’s resolutions are simple nudges towards a bigger goal. For example, Amy Cuddy herself had a new year’s resolution last year to “fall in love with running.” This resolution nudged her to run more, and subsequently force herself to enjoy it, but the absence of numbers and deadlines made the goal much more attainable.
Genuine lifestyles changes for the betterment of the person are great, and if the new year is the motivation necessary for you to make that change, then good for you, but overall, new year’s resolutions have evolved into a disappointing and superficial way to go about life.