Are New Year's Resolutions a Thing of the Past?


Daisy Couture (she/her) discusses the relevance of New Year's resolutions

Article Image

Image by Craig Adderley via Pixabay

By Daisy Couture

Traditionally, January 1 tends to bring with it not only the excitement of a new year, but a bucket list full of self-improvements. The most common amongst these is: to lose weight, travel more, save money, cut down on drinking and make time for family. But in recent years, have we seen a drop in the amount of people making (let alone sticking to) New Year’s resolutions?

For 2024 I made three resolutions, which are written up on a virtual sticky-note on my computer home screen lest I forget what they are.

Firstly, I want to start running - mostly for my health, partially for bragging rights. Secondly, I want to eat less meat - mostly for the environment, partially for my health. Thirdly, I want to learn French - wholly because on my latest holiday to Belgium, the majority of people there assumed that I was French, which led to a lot of embarrassment when I had to explain to them that, no, sorry, I’m just an ignorant English woman.

Writing this article almost a month later, I would say that I’m fulfilling two thirds of these goals. I went on one run whilst at home, nearly died and haven’t tried it since. I’m definitely eating less meat (lentils are my new best friend), and I have a 27-day French streak on Duolingo.

It’s going okay so far. But there is a chance I may be within the 44 percent of people that achieve some, not all, of their goals by the end of the year. In fact, of these, only 16 percent achieve everything they want to, raising questions on the overall effectiveness of New Year’s resolutions.

When I asked my friends what they were doing for theirs, they said “What? Nothing.” The same thing happened when the topic came up with my parents. It appears as though less and less people are setting themselves January goals - and there can be a good reason for it.

If you are looking to improve yourself or an aspect of your life, then why wait until January 1st to implement it? Positive change can, and maybe should, begin as soon as possible. I saw a TikTok over Christmas which argued against waiting to start running until the New Year. If you’ve got all the equipment, why not head out the door right now?

And I don’t disagree with this. Something inside me wishes that I had started attempting to run earlier - perhaps it would be a little easier now. I also find that there is something slightly disingenuous about New Year’s resolutions; having goals in mind is great, so why wait? Christmas is obviously a big factor in this delay; but an excuse to gorge for three weeks followed by a desire to exercise effectively or lose weight quickly is a recipe for disappointment.

This also gives way to the age-old joke about gyms being crowded on January 1st by people who have never set foot in a gym before - but, as one of those people, I say let them do their thing. Self-improvement should never be chastised, no matter the motivation behind it.

So why do people, myself included, wait until the New Year to set themselves goals? Personally, I absolutely adore the feeling of a clean slate - and I don’t think you can get a cleaner slate than a new year. Psychologically, it gives people a greater sense of motivation and optimism; it’s like turning over a new leaf. Even a Monday feels refreshing to me - the past week is gone, let the next one begin.

Feeling like a shinier, more improved version of yourself can lead to a greater desire to achieve your goals. I cannot be the only person who, both in the lead-up to and following days, feels like a slob at Christmas. I’m eating more, moving less, abandoning the thought of looking good and basically living in jogging bottoms. For me, that does not feel like the most optimal time to strap on my running shoes. Giving yourself time to unwind at Christmas is almost as important as the festivity itself.

To conclude, then, do I think that New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past?

Sort of. I think that less people are giving themselves New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps they’re making up for them throughout the rest of the year. I think that the rise of social media and its impact on self-improvement is confusing, and something that I’m not going to pretend to fully understand. Do we feed into the narrative of ‘everybody is perfect just the way they are and don’t need to change for anyone’, or do we listen to ‘here’s 100 ways to clear your skin, boost your grades and achieve your dream body?’

I suppose the general takeaway is to just do what you want, really. I’m still going to try and stick as closely as possible to my New Year’s resolutions, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself if it all goes awry. After all, work, university, family, friends, relationships and life all get in the way.

Au revoir, enchanté et à bientôt!