By Tricia Drevets
Each December, people all over the world make resolutions for the coming year. The custom of making a vow for the New Year dates back 4,000 years when the Babylonians promised things to the gods in the hope of engendering good favor.
After Julius Caesar developed a new solar-based calendar, he named its first month January after the god Janus. With his two faces, Janus could look back over the past year and look forward to the New Year at the same time. Romans exchanged gifts, such as branches from sacred trees and coins imprinted with Janus’s head, to celebrate the New Year.
According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Popular New Year’s resolutions are losing weight, exercising, spending more time with family, eating better, quitting smoking and saving/earning more money.
These common resolutions tend to be great pick-me-ups for certain businesses.
According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), 12 percent of new health club and gym members join in January. In 2015, Americans spent an estimated $62 billion on health club memberships, according to the market research firm, Marketdata Enterprises.
However, not everyone sticks with their exercise goals. A study published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology revealed that roughly 50 percent of those new members drop out within the first six months.
During most times of the year, one-fifth of a health club or gym’s members usually are inactive, according to IHRSA.
To meet that losing weight or eating healthier goal, Americans spent about nearly $30 billion each year on diet beverages, prepackaged diet meals and artificial sweeteners and more than $3 billion on weight-loss programs, according to Marketdata.
It seems like you would save money when you quit smoking, but most people spend at least some money when they try to stop. Less than 10 percent of smokers quit on their own, according to Dr. Anne M. Joseph, a professor at the University of Minnesota who studies smoking habits.
Last year, Americans spent about $522 million on over-the-counter nicotine replacement products such as skin patches, gum and lozenges. Early January sales of these products typically increase by about 40 percent.
Saving more money
With end-of year taxes to consider, many people focus on saving money as a New Year’s goal. As a result, January is a busy time for financial planners and accountants.
One of the ways to keep your budgeting resolution is with the use of technology. Many financial planners recommend automating your money as much as possible. One way to do this is by setting up automatic withdrawals from your checking account into your savings account.
Another way of keeping financially on track in the coming year is to open a savings account at a different institution than where you have your checking account. This practice adds another step that could help when you are tempted to dip into your savings.
Spending more time with family
Balancing our work and home lives is a challenge of the 21st century. With technology, it is difficult to be “out of reach” to clients and customers even when we are supposed to be at home relaxing.
According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, known for creating Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, we humans have a pyramid of needs that must be met in order for us to function optimally.
Our careers keep us mentally active and productive and provide the income for food, clothing and shelter. Our personal relationships, however, offer us the love, security and companionship we need to thrive.
Maslow contended that we need both aspects of our lives to be in balance in order for us to be healthy and at our best.
How to make a resolution you will keep
Research on resolutions that work and those that fail indicates that the more specific you are with the wording of your goal, the more successful you will be at meeting it. Instead of just saying you want to exercise more, break the goal into attainable steps. “I will walk to and from the train station three times a week” or “I will cut out my afternoon coffee” are two examples.
Here are some other tips for success.
- Write down your goal. Whether you use pen and paper or your laptop or phone is up to you. The point is that putting your resolution down in words helps make it more of a commitment.
- Team up with a like-minded friend. If you are exercising or planning healthy meals with a buddy, you can both motivate and support each other.
- Realize that mistakes happen. A slip up now and then does not mean you are a failure. If you sneak a cigarette, miss a run or eat some ice cream, you don't have to abandon your entire plan. Just pick up where you left off and begin again.
- Reward Yourself. Keeping a challenging resolution takes hard work and perseverance. That is why some studies show that only 8 percent of us keep them. Treat yourself to something fun when you meet a mini goal. It can be anything from a bouquet of flowers, to a new water bottle, to a nature hike. Positive reinforcement will encourage you to keep going.
- Rid yourself of the negativity. Do you have naysayers in your life who are undermining your efforts? We all know people who encourage us to skip the workout or to eat that extra helping. Let these people know that they are discouraging you from meeting your goal and ask for their support. If they still fail to give it, limit your time with them.