One month on: how effective is setting New Year’s resolutions?

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By Omran Al Jallaf, Third Year Politics and International Relations

Many people take time to think about setting resolutions before they enter a new year, but how productive can setting resolutions really be when it is known that most resolutions are not kept?

January is coming to an end. What characterises the first month of the year is the possibility of having a fresh start; making changes in both the micro and macro aspects of your daily life. We’ve seen this with movements like ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’. It’s also a time to reflect on the year before and observe the things that worked well for you and those that set you back. Resolutions are set before the first of the month – the most common ones being to lose weight, to have a healthier diet, to find love, and to quit smoking or drinking (à la Bridget Jones).

Resolutions can feel overwhelming because they come with a lot of commitment, and a lot of people struggle to keep to them. It is also important to recognise that we are in our third year of an ongoing pandemic, where our sense of productivity and accomplishment are easily disrupted by circumstances outside of our control. That doesn’t deter everyone though, as Joshua Short, a third year English student, has already set his eye on his academic targets. ‘I really want to do well in my creative writing dissertation specifically and write a good story. Also, a first overall is the dream,’ he says.

For some, the mere act of setting resolutions is a necessary form of manifestation. Many find that this process of internal visualisation already begins to help them orient their targets or goals and see them tangibly achieved. This is definitely a more positive outlook on resolutions that get a bad name for not being followed through. ‘It does not have to be all or nothing, there’s stages to it,’ explains Thomas Graham, a third year Politics and International Relations student. ‘Even if you don’t achieve your goal completely, it’s still a form of progress.’

"Many find that this process of internal visualisation already begins to help them orient their targets or goals and see them tangibly achieved."

As students, we have all experienced the stress of assignment deadlines, so it can seem strange to apply that same mode of pressure on ourselves with resolutions. ‘I support the act of setting goals, but it should be more outcome-oriented rather than constringent on a time period’ says Ina Leonetti, a third year Law student. Maybe the problem with resolutions is that they feel exactly like deadlines; not reaching a goal by the set time can feel dejecting, and thus impacts the ability to recognize our own potential and capabilities.

Looking at resolutions with a new perspective might offer a solution. ‘I prefer to set New Year’s intentions because resolutions are outdated and pressure inducing,’ says Guneesha Chowdhry, a third year Management and Innovation student. She also plans on setting long-term systems of change this year because they promote growth, as opposed to having short-term goals which she believes are unsustainable.

There appears to be a growing favorability to these new approaches among students, especially due to growing discussions surrounding the mental health of young people. Students are becoming more aware of adopting healthy patterns in their academic lives, such as taking breaks and rewarding themselves for completing tasks, which helps promote a better sense of accomplishment that is not reliant on hustle culture, or constantly being ‘on the grind’.

This could be particularly beneficial for final year students going into the workforce after their degree. It allows you to have professional ambitions without sacrificing your personal wellbeing or succumbing to work cultures where being overworked is normalized.

"Students are becoming more aware of adopting healthy patterns in their academic lives... which helps promote a better sense of accomplishment that is not reliant on hustle culture, or constantly being ‘on the grind’. "

Opinions on resolutions remain divisive since some people rely on their ability to motivate, while others find them unnecessarily stressful. Nonetheless, changing how we view New Year’s resolutions could be the way forward in encouraging more people to adopt them. By releasing ourselves from time-related pressures and realizing that not following resolutions all the way through is not so bad at the end of the day, we can begin to think about integrating meaningful, productive changes into our lifestyles for the remainder of the year.

Featured Image: Unsplash | Ian Schneider

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