The Science Behind Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Whether you have plans to lose weight, eat healthier, save more money, read more, or reduce your carbon footprint – you are not alone.

Every year, millions of people around the UAE and the world set out to transform their mind, body and spirit through their New Year’s Resolution. However, the question remains whether or not this goal-driven tradition inspires or discourages us?


The History of New Year’s Resolutions

Over 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. They were also the first recorded civilization to hold celebrations in honor of the new year (although for them the new year began in mid-March after their crops were planted).

Similarly, during the reign of Julius Caesar, ancient Romans recognized the New Year on January 1st, in honor of the Greek God Janus, who they believed symbolically looked backward into the previous year and ahead into the future. To celebrate the New Year, the Romans offered sacrifices and made promises of good deeds for the coming year.

As time has marched on, millions of people around the world have weaved New Year’s resolution traditions into their holiday and religious traditions.


Should You Make New Year’s Resolutions?

There’s so much disagreement around resolutions because they often fail to deliver. In fact, according to Psychology Today, research shows less than 10 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. Additionally, more than 50 percent of people who make resolutions can’t even remember why they chose to commit to their resolution in the first place.

Despite these grim statistics, Dr. Glenn Miller of Harvard Medical believes we should all make New Year’s resolutions – even if we don’t stick to them. Psychologically, the start of a new calendar year creates changes in our mindset. There is something wonderfully vitalizing about making resolutions on the first day of the New Year.

Wanting to make resolutions is a good thing, as it means we want to commit to making a promise to improve our lives and to make the New Year a better one for ourselves and others. New Year’s resolutions have many benefits, including the following:


  • Exercise your brain with extra motivation. Staying actively engaged in the pursuit of your goals and resolutions activates the brain’s pleasure centers. Committing to a resolution every year gives us a jolt of happiness, regardless of the outcome. Essentially, we derive as much pleasure from setting our resolutions as we do from achieving them.


  • Making resolutions sets forth a personal challenge. It’s human nature to become content with life. By making new or repeat resolutions every year we are able to explore our potential and continue to grow. Even when we fail to achieve our resolutions, we may gain healthier habits along the way.


  • Making resolutions helps us take a good look at our life, discovering areas where we can improve. The start of a new year is the perfect time for self-reflection.  Ask yourself if you have been the kind of person you want to be? Is there an area of your life where you would like to improve? Perhaps there is something you have dreamed of doing to improve yourself?


  • Making resolutions magnifies our desire to take a step towards positive change.  Even when we are unsuccessful in achieving our goals or resolutions, the act of simply making a resolution helps to recommit our personal focus, and propels us forward, even if we are unsuccessful.


The Great Debate

Regardless of which side of the New Year’s resolution debate you stand on, if you decide to make a resolution when the clock strikes midnight, be sure to set goals that are important to you. Be kind to yourself, and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You may slip and fall, but you can get back up and keep on moving forward.

At the Brain Workshop, our brain training is designed to improve mental performance. Whether you seek career development, improve your attention, improve your memory and much more, we can help. Our programs concentrate on skills development at the cognitive level. Stronger cognitive skills mean stronger mental performance, and that’s good news for adults looking to fulfil their new year’s resolutions and professional goals.


If you are interested in learning more about how the professionals at the Brain Workshop can help you on your path to reaching your goals and turning your resolutions into realities, schedule your assessment today.

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