Ringing in the Changes

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New year, new start? No more missing nine o’clock lectures? Getting all the reading done on time? Right. Well, good luck. You’ll need it. While most people will admit to having made a resolution at least once in their life, a staggering 83% will fail, according to a recent American study. So what’s the point?

It could be down to a simple matter of ritual. Once a year, every year, we have a reason to aim for the skies. We can say we want to change because on January 1st, everyone else wants to change with us. It’s a group activity to better ourselves. Maybe it’s the only time we won’t feel embarrassed to admit that we’re not happy as we are. 

On the other hand, it could be a matter of history. The idea of resolutions at the new year dates back to Babylonian times, when it is said that a common resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. It was with the construction of the Julian calendar by the Romans, and then it’s reform into the Gregorian calendar, however, that changed the idea more into what happens today. 

January 1st is the start of the solar-based Gregorian calendar. It is the most common type of calendar around today, and therefore could be seen as the perfect starting point for a new life. Other cultures, however, start the new year at different points. For example, the Chinese New Year (when translated to Gregorian dates) takes place some time between January 21st and February 20th. Considering the fact that many modern New Year resolutions relate to diet and fitness, this date (being closer to spring and warm weather) could be seen as a more sensible start to a healthy lifestyle. After all, when it’s cold and wet outside who wants to do anything but stay in with a film and some stodgy food? 

Why start now? Why wait until January 1st to make a promise to yourself that in all likelihood, you will fail to keep? Most people don’t expect to keep their resolutions any longer than the end of January—this is seen as an achievement in itself. The 7th of January is actually known as National Give Up Your New Year Resolutions Day. So why fix a date like January 1st, when you could have started right after Christmas, or even earlier? Even with the ‘support’ of the government running post-Christmas ‘eat better, move more, live longer’ adverts and commercial shopping chains such as Boots pointing the way with their ‘Change One Thing’ campaign, at the end of the day it’s an individual struggle. If you want to change, only you can affect the outcome.  

Don’t let the date stop you changing either—so you missed January 1st, spending the day in a hung-over haze? Make a January 23rd resolution instead. This year I haven’t made any New Year resolutions. But if I want to change, I will—whether it’s March, June or even December.

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