New Year’s resolutions: embrace or abandon?

Hilary Mullen weighs up the pros and cons associated with the annual tradition

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 2022!  Yes, another year has come and gone and now after spending the Christmas holidays doing nothing but eating junk food and watching Netflix at home (after enduring a crazy year of also eating junk food and watching Netflix during lockdown), it is time to get back to reality, unfortunately. As with every New Year, there comes the inevitability of New Year’s resolutions being forced down your throat whether you like it or not.  Many of us are excited at the prospect of setting new goals for the year ahead; however, some of us would rather ignore the existential dread that comes with realising time is quickly slipping past us.  It is a tough call on whether to embrace New Year’s resolutions or abandon them completely because there are both positive and negative aspects to the tradition. I will attempt to weigh up the pros and cons of undertaking this foreboding commitment in the hopes that it will help some of you decide what’s best for you this year.

“If you plan to set New Year’s resolutions, the most important rule of thumb is that they must be realistic and sustainable in order to make a positive difference.”

 If you plan to set New Year’s resolutions, the most important rule of thumb is that they must be realistic and sustainable in order to make a positive difference. Remember, they don’t have to be extraordinary. It is important that resolutions are specified small term goals that help you get closer to a long term goal. For example, instead of making a resolution to get in shape, aim to go for a 5km walk every other day, and then build it up to a 5km run. Gradually increase the goal to keep reaching a further distance and eventually if you remain on the right track, you should reach your ultimate target.

Furthermore, it is important to be selective with your yearly targets if you truly wish to fulfil them. For instance, instead of simultaneously aiming to win the Nobel Peace Prize, compete in the Olympics, graduate with a first class degree and publish a book in the one year, focus on one of those things and revel in the results. There may be 24 hours in a day, but you are not invincible. You need time to sleep and relax at some stage this year so what you should focus on is steps you could take to eventually achieve this ambitious goal. If your dream is to publish a book, a good starting point would be to aim to complete a chapter each month alongside work/study, or perhaps take part in different writing competitions to improve your craft.  That way, by the end of the year, if you stick to those little goals as your resolution, you are a few steps closer to achieving that dream of publishing a book. 

Often, many people write a massive list of New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to become a better version of themselves, eliminating a proportion of their personality in the process. People give into this mantra of “New Year, new me” and put themselves under a lot of pressure to completely revive their lives.  I think this pressure has increased dramatically with the rise of social media. We all know at this stage that if something is trendy, you will see it everywhere on your Instagram feed.  As soon as I woke up the morning of January 1st I was already bombarded with gym selfies and outdoor scenery of people starting their new exercise regime. If you didn’t have time to go for a walk or hit the gym and you see all your friends online lifting weights and jogging 5km in record time, it may make you feel deflated and unmotivated to stay on track with your own resolutions. 

Having said that, a positive aspect of New Year’s is the huge sense of togetherness around fresh starts and new beginnings.  If all of your friends are making resolutions to join the gym and read a higher number of books this year, it may encourage you to do the same, contributing to positive personal development. COVID-19 has forced human beings to remain distanced, so therefore, any form of togetherness that can bring people towards each other again is something worth encouraging. 

“A lot of the time, materialistic goods cannot change a person’s mindset to better themselves.”

Since many people make the same New Year’s resolutions as each other, businesses often offer deals and discounts at this time to encourage eager prospective customers. If you are planning to join a gym anyway, you might as well go join in January when you can get 10% off your membership. Whilst this may seem like a plus, the constant reminder from these companies that you should be doing better can be damaging to people’s mental health. Depending on what people struggle with, certain promotions from companies in the New Year can be potentially triggering. This is the problem with many resolutions too often, they are used as a marketing ploy within certain industries such as dietary and fitness companies to encourage consumers to buy their products, convincing them that laxatives, low calorie ready meals and this specific fancy tracksuit will change their lives. A lot of the time, materialistic goods cannot change a person’s mindset to better themselves. This has to happen from within, so it can be problematic when people believe capitalism will solve their problems for them. 

The last two years have been incredibly demotivating and emotionally straining and it has been a tougher time than ever to find reasons to continue pushing yourself. If you feel that New Year’s resolutions are not something you are prioritising, nobody will judge or blame you for skipping a year. However, if you want to give some new resolutions a go this year then fair play to you! I believe that if you can handle everything COVID-19 has thrown at us all, you can manage any goal you set for yourself. 

There can be a lot of pressure around creating New Year’s resolutions to be the best of the best and have your entire life put together by the time you’re partying the following New Year’s Eve. Let’s be real here, the majority of people don’t really have their life sorted out, no matter how many resolutions they make.  At the end of the day we are just bundles of atoms on top of a rock spinning around the unknown universe.  Don’t expect your life to be all sorted this year through whatever resolutions you choose to make or not make, just do what you feel with the resources available to you to make yourself happy, one day at a time.