It is believed that the Babylonians in Mesopotamia were the first to celebrate New Year’s in 2000 B.C. At that time, New Year’s occurred in mid-March. The Babylonians would make promises to their gods that they would return borrowed objects and repay their debts. They believed if they kept their promises, the gods would bestow good things for them throughout the year.
Julius Caesar’s reign over ancient Rome made a change in the months of the year. Caesar added the month of January and named the month for the Roman god, Janus. Resolutions were repeated annually and renewed the bond between the citizens, the state and the gods. Ancient Roman citizens would reflect on their past and look toward the coming year. The people would trade sweet fruits and honey with each other.
The early Christians believed the start of the New Year should be a time to reflect on past mistakes and work on self-improvement. At that time, the resolutions were more about treating other people kindly and seeking forgiveness from their enemies. By the end of the 18th century, many resolutions involved being more helpful, more diligent and to be a better person.
Isidor Thorner, an American Theologist, did a survey in 1951 to determine the relationship between Protestant values and New Year resolutions. The New Year resolutions according to Thorner helped Protestants manage their emotions. Over time, New Year’s resolutions lost their religious meaning and became a tradition with the general population. Listed below is a comparison of resolutions between 1947 and 2014.
Resolutions for 1947 – Gallup Poll
- Improve disposition, be more understanding, control temper
- Improve my character, live a better life
- Stop smoking, smoke less
- Save more money
- Stop drinking, drink less
- Be more religious, go to church more often
- Be more efficient, do a better job
- Take better care of my health
- Contribute more in home life
- Lose (or gain) weight
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit smoking
- Help others in their dreams
- Fall in love
10. Spend more time with family
According to a study done in 2007 by Richard Wiseman, approximately 88% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail. The study showed 52% of the 3,000 participants were confident they would succeed in fulfilling their resolution.
So, what about a New Year’s resolution for 2016? Is your resolution going to focus on:
Returning borrowed objects and repaying debts?
Keeping promises to others?
Renewing a bond between yourself and the state?
Reflecting on past mistakes and working on self-improvement?
Whichever New Year’s resolution you choose, make sure that it is obtainable and realistic. Lastly, make sure the resolution is accountable by sharing it with someone else. Make it known to this accountability person that you want them to ask you how you are doing with keeping the resolution.
Dave Tice is a licensed professional counselor at the Center with over 6 years of counseling experience. To learn more about Dave, or to set up an appointment, click here.