January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus was believed to be the protector of gates and doorways and symbolizes beginnings and endings. He is depicted with two faces. One of his faces looks into the past, and the other, according to legend, can see into the future. The Romans often made promises to Janus to earn good favor in the coming year.
New Year’s resolutions in Medieval times were taken seriously. Farmers promised to return borrowed farm tools, people promised to pay their debts, and knights renewed their promise of chivalry. But by the 17th century, New Year’s resolutions were so common that they found humor in the notion of making and breaking them.
The first recorded use of the term “New year’s resolution” was recorded in 1813 in a Boston newspaper. It stated:
“And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behavior, with full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.”
New Year’s resolutions are still a tradition in the United States, but the type of resolutions has changed with the change in societal and cultural norms. Built on Christian philosophy, resolutions in the early 1900s were primarily religious or spiritual, reflecting a desire to develop personal characteristics that reflected a more devout devotion to church and family, a stronger work ethic, and forgo material pleasures.
The Gallup Poll’s survey of resolutions from 1947 found the top ten were:
- Improve my disposition, be more understanding, control my temper
- Improve my character, live a better life
- Stop smoking, smoke less
- Save more money
- Stop drinking, drink less
- Be more religious, go to church more
- Be more efficient, and do a better job
- Take better care of my health
- Take a greater part in home life
- Loose or gain weight
Today the top ten are:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit smoking or vaping
- Help others fulfill their dreams
- Fall in love
- Spend more time with family
A 2017 Marist poll of 1,074 people found that 68% kept their New Year’s resolution. So if you are one of the millions of people who say they’ll make a New Year’s resolution, here are some tips to help you keep it:
- Pick a goal that you genuinely think will make you feel better. If you pick something you think you should do or what someone is telling you to change, but your heart isn’t in it, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you won’t keep it.
- Keep it simple. Only pick one or two goals, not a laundry list of things you’d like to change.
- Make the goal time-bound and realistic plan for a week at a time to make the change, not a year.
- Create a detailed plan. Take some time to think about how you will achieve your goal.
- Enlist a support network. Your friends or family can help you stay on track with your resolution and can motivate you to meet your goals.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you run out of steam or motivation by mid-February. Instead, regroup and restart if it’s something you really want to achieve. Try doing it for 24-hour increments, which will build on each other, and before you know it, you’ll be back on track. And remember, resolutions are an opportunity to actively shift from a habit or mindset you want to break and open yourself up to being a better you. It’s like suddenly you know that it’s time to start something new and trust yourself. There is magic in new beginnings. You got this! And I’ll have your back.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!