Byter Sue P commented in a New Year email:
Was wondering when we started to make New Year resolutions? And is there a record of how successful overall people are at keeping to them?
Having looked into it, I can tell you that new year’s resolutions are not a modern development, although historically they did not involve losing weight or giving up cigarettes.
Some comments below.
New Year resolutions, or similar, started with the Babylonians about 4,000 years ago when they made promises to their gods at the start of each new year. A common promise was to return borrowed objects and to pay their debts. Funny what pleases the gods. The Babylonian new year began in March and was celebrated with an 11 day festival.
About the same period Egyptians celebrated their new year at the time of the annual Nile flood,
In 46 BC Julius Caesar moved the new year commencement to January 1 and named the month after Janus, the god that looks two ways, at the past and to the future. Romans began the new year by making promises to Janus, the god of beginnings and endings.
Most cultures historically celebrated the new year with a festival, whether they be Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans, Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, even Celts. The celebration included a feeling of a “fresh start”, hence the making of resolutions, both to please the gods and to nake some personal commitment.
In the Medieval era, knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
Resolutions also have religious connections in some cultures.
During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings over the year and to both seek and offer forgiveness.
It is believed that new year resolutions within the Christian religion developed from the idea of sacrifice in Lent.
The following is from Wikipedia:
The most common reason for participants failing their New Years' Resolutions was setting themselves unrealistic goals (35%), while 33% didn't keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it. About one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.
A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.