Do New Year's resolutions work?


Fact Box

  • New Year’s is celebrated around the world, some of the most notable being New Year’s Eve in New York City and London’s Trafalgar Square on December 31. However, different cultures celebrate the new year on alternative dates as well. The Chinese Lunar New Year is in February, Jewish Rosh Hashanah in September, Thailand’s Songkran in April, and the Russian Orthodox Church on January 14. 
  • Americans voted New Year’s Eve as their fourth favorite holiday with Christmas being the first. The most popular celebrations take place in New York, Florida, and Virginia. 
  • Over a million people rush to Times Square in New York to see the famed ball drop; it is 11,875 pounds and covered with 2,688 Waterford crystals. 
  • Forbes posted a study showing that less than 25% of people commit to their resolutions after 30 days with only 8% finishing them. 
  • Most resolutions fade by February, and for gyms in particular, attendance drops significantly after the first and second months.

Bill (No)

New Year’s resolutions necessitate changes in habits and behaviors. Old habits are hard to break, and new ones are difficult to acquire if one doesn’t carefully consider what will be required to sustain the resolution. Research shows that it can take over two months to develop new habits. Sticking with a new routine for that long requires motivation and commitment, which could explain why it’s estimated that approximately 90% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Personal trainers exist for a reason; people need support and guidance to stick to a new regimen; especially if it’s difficult.

Resolutions should be aligned with your values. If you don’t genuinely care deeply about something, you’re less likely to do what is necessary to achieve it. Values provide a necessary support structure and are a reminder as to why you’re trying to form new habits in the first place. Without a link to values, resolutions can be easily abandoned.  

Another factor that tends to derail resolutions is the failure to break the resolution down into specific manageable changes that can be more readily implemented to achieve the end goal. Without careful planning, resolutions can seem abstract or overwhelming. Details make resolution plans more concrete and help to provide necessary clarity and purpose.

Finally, failure to take a sensible approach to New Year’s resolutions can cause stress, which can be self-defeating. One is far more likely to give up on something if it’s seen as a chore or a burden. Failure to stick with your resolution can lead to 'negative self-talk.' Such self-limiting behavior is often at the root of why New Year’s resolutions fail.

Tyler (Yes)

New Year's resolutions can serve as a great source of motivation for people looking to improve different facets of their lives. While the success rate of these resolutions certainly varies based on several factors, there are a significant number of people who do achieve their goals. 

While New Year's resolutions can be associated with false hope, it isn't always the case. A study of over 1,000 people revealed that half of the participants achieved their New Year's resolutions. However, it's important to note that those who ultimately found success usually had made vaguer, generalized goals. In other words, having a general sense of what you plan to accomplish in the next year is a step in the right direction. 

New Year's resolutions are important because they offer hope to people aiming to live by a different code and better themselves. To successfully execute resolutions, you should set measurable and concrete goals in some sense. This enables you to track your progress. And not surprisingly, the people who find the most success with keeping their New Year’s resolutions are those who are generally very motivated and who will work on themselves without hesitation. 

New Year's resolutions also 'work' due to the number of people setting their intention on the same thing. Similar to how science has discovered some evidence of group prayer potentially healing people, collective intention-setting can bring resolutions to life. 

Thirty-one percent of people are expected to make New Year's resolutions this year, and one in five people will continue working on their resolutions two years after making them. However, that leaves room for plenty of outliers to take advantage of their goals.

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