It’s that time of year again. Quick! Get out your notebooks and pens – it’s time we write down our New Year’s resolutions. We all know about the ‘new year, new me’ trend and I’m sure you know even more about the whole debate surrounding it. But why is there a debate in the first place? What is so wrong about wanting to make some positive change for the New Year? Well get yourself comfortable, because that’s exactly it, it’s so deceptively convincing that we really are persuaded January 1 means it’s time we must make a full 180.
The concept of ‘new year new me’ really doesn’t make much sense. Why is it that we are told to make change on January 1 – a random day marked on a calendar made up by human beings hundreds of years ago? We can consider advice from renowned mindfulness teachers like Eckhart Tolle, who has pointed out countless times that the only true experience we have is that of the present moment, so the concept of time is merely an illusion. So, if change needs to happen, why is it only on the first day of the New Year and not simply when we feel we need to at that moment? It’s almost as if we have a time limit on starting to work on ourselves, and if we don’t succeed within that window, then we’ve ultimately failed. Try again next year. As so often is the case, the problem can be traced back to business.
In the same way corporations are trying to convince us that we ‘need’ to fix things in our lives, rather than trusting ourselves and what feels right to us, I can’t help but see the concept of ‘new year new me’ as a strategy to continue racking in the sales. Think about it this way: it’s just been December, and business has been booming. Unfortunately for us and our bank accounts, by the end of the month no one wants to spend any more money because, well, it’s all gone. So, to keep profits up, businesses need to find a way to keep people hooked.
Bingo! Just when you thought you wouldn’t be able to afford any new fitness gear or that new computer you absolutely ‘need’ for optimal productivity, somehow we can scavenge a few pennies from the last of our savings. The time of New Year’s resolutions is suddenly launched at us from all angles, reminding us that after this wholesome gift-giving period with our loved ones, it’s time to get self-critical again. Once again, we rediscover how we can rely on products/subscriptions to hide our insecurities.
Forbes found that 35% of British people have the resolution to lose weight in the New Year, with a whopping 37% of ‘resolution-setters’ being in the young 18-34 year old age bracket. Could this be a result of diet culture-infused media pushing their services and products onto younger audiences? Specifically, those who they know tend to be more active online. Forbes reported that Liverpool was home to most individuals setting resolutions, with 40% planning to start anew in 2024. Meanwhile, a study in August 2023 found that Liverpool is the third most social-media-obsessed city in the UK – coincidence? While for us the message is ‘new year, new you’, for businesses it’s ‘new year, same us, new you, more profit’.
Of course, there can be many benefits to wanting to adopt positive habits within your life. It can bring hope, motivation and inspiration; all of which can cater for positive feelings and emotions, and improve mental health. However, there can be some negative side effects too. Forbes reports that only 8% of people will achieve their New Year’s resolutions, and online health resource Patient.info points out that abandoning these resolutions can have such a negative impact on our mental health that we feel like we have ‘failed the entire year’.
As journalist and author Matt Haig so beautifully put it in his Instagram post, “You don’t need replacing every year like another iPhone” – in other words, you are enough as you are right now. He emphasises the importance of “lov[ing] the old you” and recognises there isn’t an urgency to throw that person away just because it’s officially the start of another 365 days. When I asked in an Instagram poll whether or not people would be engaging in the ‘new year new me’ trend, a grand 68% answered yes. With that in mind, I’d encourage you to question why you may think you need a ‘new you’. Do you genuinely feel like you are implementing change because you think it will be beneficial to your life and well-being? Or is it because you feel like you have to?
“Head towards yourself not away”. I really like that quote from Haig. Don’t fall for what society is telling you to do. Remember to do what you feel is right when you feel it is right. It’s your life: New Year, but the same you can still be enough.