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New Year’s Resolutions

by Mary Anderson on 2023-01-02T08:00:00-06:00 | Comments

Image of a January CalendarThe custom of New Year’s resolutions has been around thousands of years. Specifically, it is thought to have begun with the ancient Babylonians around 2000 BCE with the festival of Akitu. This spring celebration of the new year included the tradition of making promises to the gods to pay one’s debts and return borrowed items. Keeping these promises would lead to a favorable year ahead but breaking them would mean incurring the gods’ disfavor. The ancient Romans later had similar traditions and it is through them that the practice became associated with January 1. In 46 BCE, Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar which established January as the first month. It was named to honor Janus, the two-faced god who thus symbolically could look simultaneously back on the previous year and forward to the new. The Romans would offer sacrifices to Janus and make promises of good conduct.

While these and other New Year’s resolution traditions had religious roots, today in the United States resolutions are primarily associated simply with the changing of the calendar and self-improvement. They are quite common with studies consistently showing that over 40% of people make them each year. Many of the most popular resolutions focus on health, such as exercising more or losing weight, but others include things like learning a new hobby or skill, saving more money, volunteering, or spending more time with family. College students often make resolutions like creating a study routine, getting organized, sleeping more, asking for help, and overcoming procrastination.

Nonetheless, the same research that shows how popular resolutions are also shows that the majority of people do not manage to keep them. As many as 80% of people have given up on their resolutions by the first week of February. One reason resolutions fail is that they are too vague or ambitious, like the resolution to be healthier. Resolutions are more successful when they are SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. So, for instance, instead of resolving to be healthier, one should focus on particular aspects of health like sleeping more and then be specific about that with a set bedtime. Additionally, accountability can also be helpful in keeping one’s resolutions. If your resolution is to study in the Library three nights a week, find at least one friend willing to join you in this so you can hold each other accountable. Finally, consider the resources available to aid in your resolution. If your resolution is to ask for help more remember that MARC includes Research Assistance with librarians, as well as the Writing Center, Math Lab, and Academic Success. If you are going to work at overcoming procrastination, the Next Long Night Against Procrastination will be April 13 in MARC. Happy New Year!


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