New Year's resolution

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Early 20th-century New Year's resolution postcards

A New Year's resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western World[1] but also found in the Eastern World, in which a person resolves to continue good practices, change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life at the start of a new year.

Religious origins[edit]

The people made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.[2]

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.[3]

In the medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.[4]

At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions.[5] In Methodist Christianity, the liturgy used for the watchnight service for the New Year is the Covenant Renewal Service; in addition to being traditionally held on New Year's Eve, many churches offer the Covenant Renewal Service on both New Year's Eve and on the morning of New Year's Day.[6]

This tradition has many other religious parallels. During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People can act similarly during the Christian liturgical season of Lent, although the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility.[5][verification needed] The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.


At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year's resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did.[7] In fact, according to the American Medical Association, approximately 40% to 50% of Americans participated in the New Year's resolution tradition from the 1995 Epcot and 1985 Gallop Polls.[8] A study found 46% of participants who made common New Year's resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programs, quitting smoking) were likely to succeed, over ten times as among those deciding to make life changes at other times of the year.[9]

Success rate[edit]

In a 2014 report, 35% of participants who failed their New Year's Resolutions admitted they had unrealistic goals, 33% of participants did not keep track of their progress, and 23% forgot about them; about one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.[10]

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail,[11] despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, wherein resolutions are made in terms of small and measurable goals (e.g., "lose a pound a week" rather than "lose weight").


  1. ^ Rössner, S. M.; Hansen, J. V.; Rössner, S. (February 2011). "New Year's Resolutions to Lose Weight – Dreams and Reality". Obesity Facts. 4 (1): 3–5. doi:10.1159/000324861. PMC 6444530. PMID 21372604.
  2. ^ Lennox, Doug (2007). Now You Know Big Book of Answers one of the amazing thing. Toronto: Dundurn. p. 250. ISBN 978-1-55002-741-9.
  3. ^ Julia Jasmine (1998). Multicultural Holidays. Teacher Created Resources. p. 116. ISBN 1-55734-615-1.
  4. ^ Lennox, Doug (2007). Now You Know Big Book of Answers. Toronto: Dundurn. p. 250. ISBN 978-1-55002-741-9.
  5. ^ a b James Ewing Ritchie (1870). The Religious Life of London. Tinsley Brothers. p. 223. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  6. ^ "Watch Night Service". The United Methodist Church. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  7. ^ "New Years Resolution Statistics - Statistic Brain". 9 January 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  8. ^ Norcross, JC, Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 58(4), 397-405, 2002
  9. ^ Norcross, JC, Mrykalo, MS, Blagys, MD, J. Clin. Psych. 58: 397-405. 2009
  10. ^ Hutchison, Michelle (29 December 2014). "Bunch of failures or just optimistic? New Year's Resolution Study shows New Year novelty fizzles fast -". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  11. ^ Lehrer, Jonah (December 26, 2009). "Blame It on the Brain". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.