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New Year’s Resolutions: pointless or powerful?

New Year’s resolutions: Are they truly transformative or just a setup for disappointment? January 1st arrives amid lingering holiday indulgence, often leaving us with hangovers and half-hearted promises of change. We vow to cut down on screen time or go to the gym, only to find ourselves still glued to screens and a lazy article. The period between Christmas and New Year leaves the days blending into one, which can spark the desire for reinvention amid a loop of lazy days.

Do resolutions really work? Many people don’t set them because they don’t want to make promises they can’t keep. The onset of the January blues can make goals feel impossible to achieve. Online rhetoric about “cutting toxic people” sounds like a melodramatic soap opera script rather than a realistic life strategy. I’ve heard online that people are in our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. But is life really this simple? Sudden lifestyle changes also take time. You can’t expect to go from a lazy boozehound to a wholesome, academic weapon overnight. Setting an arbitrary fitness goal will not solve all your problems either. I’ve seen many melancholy runners pounding the pavements, lighting up the dreary days in brand-new fluorescent gear. What exactly are you running away from or towards?

Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed setting New Year’s Resolutions. However, I think it’s more efficient to set achievable goals rather than to seek a personality transplant. Last year I wrote down that I wanted to secure my year abroad placement through the British Council and improve my essays at Oxford; these were both achieved. I think the key is to treat resolutions as aspirations. The connotations of the word resolution are too daunting for a very disciplined decision to firmly do or never do something again. However, a list of goals and small new habits can create a sense of organisation and inspire a fresh start to the new year.

This year I want to cut down on my phone screen time. Rather than automatically opening Instagram or even worse TikTok as a reflex, I’d like to be more mindful about how long I spend on my device. So, I’ve set myself the challenge of not looking at Instagram or TikTok for January. Most importantly this year I’d like to talk to myself with the kindness and compassion I would a friend. Instead of spiralling, I hope to write in my diary every day. I think the new year allows us all to turn over a fresh page in our lives; to me, that’s the magic of it. So rather than running away from your problems and towards a stitch, pick up a pen and ideally a new notebook and set some goals. January is an opportunity for self-reflection that can never be pointless, so there is power in striving for self-improvement. It’s just important to remember that at its very core time is elusive and therefore humans have found ways to measure it. So try not to put too much pressure on yourself to become a different person just because of a new calendar year. Fresh starts are possible any day of the week.

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