New Year’s resolutions. Some people hate them, while others seem to swear by them. Of course, there is the strong argument that resolutions hold absolutely no direct link to New Year’s day. One could resolve to do good deeds or abstain from bad habits any day of the year. But I do get why we do these resolutions at New Year’s. I think that after the indulgent month of December, people feel the need to cleanse themselves; not only of the excessive amount of chocolate they ate (yes, I’m looking at myself here), but of a whole year of ups and downs. Especially regarding this particular year, where it seems that drama was even more abundant than usual. The tradition of New Year’s resolutions finds its roots in religion. Way back when the Babylonians roamed the earth, they made promises to their gods to return what was not theirs to keep and to pay off their debts. Many have followed their lead since. In Judaism there is the day of atonement, Yom Kippur, which carries a similar focus on reflection on wrongdoings and cleansing. After Christmas, medieval knights would take the Peacock Vow to refresh their commitment to chivalry. This religious tone is thus easily recognised in the want to cleanse oneself of bad habits and deeds and, though this could be done any day of the year, it helps to tie these promises to a specific day. Actually writing down what changes you want to puts them out into the universe. There is now a physical object that says that you want to make those changes instead of just a gentle reminder in the back of your mind that you would, most likely, actively try to ignore.

Although the act of making New Year’s resolutions appeals to many, religious or not, there are few who actually end up fulfilling them. Many end up forgetting all about them or giving up, but that’s not such a surprise if you look at what we force ourselves to promise: six-packs, savings, marriage… Imagine drowning in burpees at the park while stressing over your wedding cake. That doesn’t sound so attainable. We should stop being so hard on ourselves and accept that any progress is still progress; that moving pebbles instead of mountains is just fine. The big problem with New Year’s resolutions, and if I’m very bold with unhappiness in general, is that we tend compare our progress to that of others and are disappointed when we don’t improve the way that others do. Especially in a world where social media is key, where sharing is caring. Maybe we should start looking at resolutions as birthday wishes instead of Challenge Charlies[1]: they shouldn’t be shared, but quietly cherished.

[1] Challenge Charlie is a web series by youtube content creator Charlieissocoollike, where charlie invited his viewers to set challenges for him which he has to perform on video.


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