Experts have put together multiple hacks that enable one to reach their new goals.
Whether you watched the fireworks, counted down with mass crowds or watched the time move a minute past midnight on your phone, congratulations, you’ve made it to the new year.
Regardless of how you welcomed the occasion, which some say is nothing more than a social construct, it is still a significant event marked on the global calendar.
For many, the New Year’s is a chance to look back on the past 12 months of hardships or successes and perhaps review goals set the year before. Over time, New Year’s resolutions have became a way of starting over, burying bad habits, and leaving the past behind.
However, the practice of setting fresh goals to mark the new year is not new and dates back to the Babylonians at least 4,000 years ago, before it was eventually picked up by other civilisations. Once it reached the Romans, January became the start of the year up until the term itself “new-year resolutions” became known in 1813.
Speaking to Doha News, experts noted that the practice is rather linked to social or cultural norms than psyche, and is based on people’s habits of wanting to start anew on a clean slate.
“The new year gives us the very neat split between what was and what should be (past vs future self). This could be a reason behind why the new year is a propeller,” Maha El Akoum, public health professional currently working as Head of Content at World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), said.
Some psychologists also believe New Year’s resolutions are set to provide a sense of excitement by having something to look forward to, similar to any event that one adds to their calendar, whether it is a wedding, graduation, or even a concert.
“For me, New Year’s resolutions are good for those who want to achieve a goal by the end of the year to better themselves. But at the same time I see it as a negative because people usually use it as an excuse to procrastinate until January 1 before actually doing something,” resident of Lusail, Mohammad, told Doha News.
For Layla, 25, New Year’s resolutions come with the pressure of “the need to feel accomplished and successful” which said “feels counterintuitive.” Despite this, she is in favour of the ability to hit “reset” at the start of the new year, which gives her the chance to clear her mind and set tangible goals.
“I do like the feeling of a “reset” and a second chance to accomplish my goals. Along with the new energy and excitement that everyone has at least in the very beginning. And so I use that to reflect on the past year and write down my intentions for the coming one,” Layla said.
On the other hand, Noor, 25, does not believe in New Year’s resolutions as goals can be set any time regardless of the date.
“You can just start whenever you set your mind on doing something. Personally, I used to set resolutions, but they were overwhelming when I didn’t meet them. Now, I set my personal goals according to my own timeline whether it’s weekly or daily,” she said.
On a personal level, El Akoum sees New Year’s resolutions as a myth as the exciting rush of the event “fades after the first month.”
“Usually resolutions are also associated with ‘big changes’ which are more likely to fail. It’s easier and more effective (in my opinion) to live day-to-day and attempt to incorporate small changes, gradually and realistically rather than expecting drastic changes over night,” El Akoum said.
Pros and cons
The mixed feelings of responses reflect the pros and cons that come with New Year’s resolutions, which can fall apart for many of those who set them.
Commenting on the positive side of the annual practice, El Akoum believes that they certainly provide people a confidence booster after reflecting on their past achievements.
The feeling is also combined with the ability “to reflect, reassess, realign and refocus or recommit to their future goals.”
“Setting resolutions also encourages positive change. Once you acknowledge that there’s room for improvement (whether it’s related to health goals or academic goals or professional goals etc) and you recognise how to make these changes in order to achieve your goals, you become more empowered to do so,” the expert told Doha News.
New Year’s resolutions have also been tied to changes in health habits, a rather positive attitude towards one’s lifestyle, from adopting a healthier diet or cutting off smoking.
In November, a Forbes Health/OnePoll survey of 1,005 US adults found that 49% of respondents from Gen-Z, born between late 90’s and 2012, wanted to improve their mental health.
On the flipside, the excitement of setting new goals can make one too critical if they fail to achieve their resolutions as most people do not stick to them, El Akoum told Doha News.
“Sometimes this self reflection can lead to self criticism and disappointment and people can feel discouraged to start the new year on a positive note, especially if you’re not where you expected to be at this stage of your life,” she explained.
Looking at why some resolutions do not end up working out, experts collectively believe that the reason goes back to goals being unrealistic or due to one’s focus on the finish line rather than the process.
“Habits are hard to break, especially those that have been built over years. Therefore consistency is key. You can’t expect change to happen overnight. So even if there are delays or even if you fall astray you must get back up and keep the end goal in mind always,” El Akoum noted.
Oftentimes, El Akoum added, one might set vague goals that make it more difficult to measure progress or failure.
How to hit the goals
Having analysed New Year’s resolutions over the years, experts have agreed on ways to effectively achieve their goals.
Speaking to The Huffington Post on New Year’s eve, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Law, Mark Jellicoe said that the key is to know limits and personality types.
Jellicoe laid out five factors that play a role in attaining the resolutions including openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism.
For El Akoum, she believes SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) goals are the first step in getting closer to one’s New Year’s resolutions.
“This will help keep up morale, and make measuring progress easier,” she said, adding that the resolutions must come from one’s own self rather than societal expectations and pressure.
Another common hack that experts have agreed on is setting smaller goals that are easily attained rather than one major resolution that they expect to occur overnight.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, licensed clinical psychologist, used the common goal of weight loss as an example.
“Rather than making a goal of ‘becoming fit,’ I would make the goal of ‘working out three times a week for at least 45 minutes each time.’ By breaking down the goal into quantifiable measures, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves and even more likely to continue,” Dr. Strongin told WebMD.