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New year, new you.......or not!

New Year's resolutions can be traced back to the ancient times, and even early religious traditions.

Babylonians, an ancient culture from the country which we now know as Iraq, were the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted.

During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king.

They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed.

These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions.

If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be.

While the Ancient Romans used to begin each year by making promises to Janus - the God after whom the month of January is named.

Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year around 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.

For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In Medieval England, knights used to take 'peacock vows' at the end of the Christmas season, to confirm their commitment to chivalry.

In the Jewish faith, people are supposed to reflect on the things they have done wrong during the past year - as well as seeking and offering forgiveness - during the New Year period.

Nowadays, most people make resolutions to themselves rather than promising gods. The focus of the tradition is on self-improvement, with people taking time to reflect on their goals. Today’s resolutions are often health focused, driven by the indulgence of the Christmas period. The symbology of the New Year also makes it a great time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh after December 31st.

Yet, research shows that many people break their resolutions by the first week of February, and only 8% of people are successful in achieving their goals at all.

Despite having over 4,000 years of practice, these figures aren’t likely to improve any time soon. Experts say we’re doomed to fail when making New Year’s resolutions thanks to unrealistic expectations and are not specific with our intentions.

So, this year, instead of saying something like "I want to get fit", set a specific goal like going to a gym class every Monday and Wednesday.

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