New Year resolutions are believed to have originated in pre-Christian times. The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods in March, the first month of their calendar. During the Roman Empire, resolutions with a moral flavour—to be good to others—were made in January. When Christianity began to be adopted as a state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasts.
Most resolutions are doomed to fail. A 2007 study conducted with 3,000 participants found that 88 per cent of all New Year resolutions eventually fail. It was found that women are 10 per cent more likely to achieve their goals if they are made public and support is garnered from friends. Men are 22 per cent more successful if they set specific and measurable goals. A 2002 study that tracked people for six months found that 36 per cent of all resolutions are broken by the end of January itself. After that, failures occur at a slower pace.
Psychologists claim that the high failure rate of resolutions is because of an over-dependence on will power, which springs from that part of the brain, in the prefrontal cortex, which gets easily overloaded and exhausted.
Resolutions have come to become an established aspect of New Year celebrations. The US Government, for instance, devotes a section of its website www.usa.gov to list popular New Year resolutions and how one can go about achieving them. The top five resolutions of 2012 were weight loss, getting organised, spending less, enjoying life to the fullest and staying fit, according to Journal of Clinical Psychology.