Focus less on New Year’s resolutions, more on being happy

A new year's calendar transitioning from 2023 to 2024

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

The new year is here! As we ring in 2024, odds are good that you’re feeling some pressure to adopt some kind of resolution, like going to the gym more or reading a certain number of books. While the idea of self-improvement is admirable, is it possible that adopting New Year’s resolutions can actually do more harm than good?

Of course, there’s nothing inherently harmful about wanting to get better as a person. We could all stand to get better in certain areas. But the best resolutions are ones adopted from a genuine desire to improve, not from the annual peer pressure that sets in every January.

After all, there’s a reason many gyms have adopted the habit of offering deals exclusively for new customers who sign up close to the new year. Many of these gyms are well aware that the customers signing up in January aren’t likely to stick around, so they can get more money out of them if they sign them up for a “cheaper” yearly membership.

This kind of wheeling and dealing is a bit sketchy, but one could easily say that it’s just good business sense on the gym owners’ parts. However, it points to a fundamental issue with a lot of New Year’s resolutions: They almost never work.

Forget about gyms. If you really want to see how common failed resolutions are, try searching “Goodreads” on X and looking at any posts from the past few months. More than likely, you’ll find dozens of users bemoaning their unmet goals to read a certain number of books that year.

Some of these people missed their book reading goals by several dozen books, and yet a lot of them also joked about how they plan to do the same thing next year.

So why do we insist on doing this dance over and over again? How many people genuinely improve their lives significantly off one half-hearted vow they took while slightly tipsy off too much champagne and cheese?

For some people, the stress of trying to fulfill the resolutions is little more than a meaningless ritual, but the pressure is much more real for others. Between potential family stress and financial struggles, the holidays can already be a lot to deal with, and a national push to make some kind of vow of self-improvement hardly helps.

These stresses can be especially stressful for people dealing with body dysmorphia, eating disorders or mental health struggles in general. Sudden pressure to go to the gym is hardly likely to be helpful to any of the above examples and runs the risk of actively worsening certain mental health conditions.

It might be easy to say “Well, some people need that extra push,” but again, setting good habits rarely works like that. If you really want to make a change, you need to have the conviction and time to really set yourself up for success. And most importantly, you need grace if you end up stumbling a bit on the way there.

So this year, maybe consider taking it easy on yourself. A lot happened in 2023, and it’s okay to take a bit of a rest instead of pushing yourself further. Gen Z has been marked by a notable embrace of “self-care” ideas, and if the declining January gym membership promotions are any indication, that trend is being taken seriously.

If you have to make a resolution, consider trying something broader like “take more time to enjoy nature” or “spend more time with friends”. It might sound cheesy, but life is too short to start the year already stressed. Make 2024 the year you take a deep breath and choose to enjoy life regardless of what you accomplish.

Malachi Key is a Journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected].

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