James Butler and Stuart Anderson take a look at popular new year resolutions, the history of the tradition and how to ensure your attempts last long after the last turkey sandwich.
New year, new you – the cliché that is plastered across magazines and TV screens nationwide and has many of us ducking for cover behind a mound of festive leftovers.
With New Year’s Eve marking the end of the Christmas period good and proper, January is a time for looking forward to what 2015 will bring – and making some personal changes.
But is it possible to actually make a resolution that you stick to throughout the year?
According to a study done by ecigarette.co.uk, the top 10 resolutions made by people for 2014 were to exercise more; to eat better; to cut down on alcohol; to stop smoking; to spend less time on Facebook or Twitter; to learn a new language; to learn a musical instrument; to spend less money; to secure a dream job and to get an average of eight hours of sleep a night.
Among this list, health improvements dominate, a recurring resolution that many Britons seem to make and then break come February.
But Dr Mike Knapton, British Heart Foundation associate medical director, urges people to stick at it.
‘Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to protect your heart,’ says Mike.
‘Research shows that a smoker who gives up on January 1 will see their risk of coronary heart disease cut in half by the end of the year.
‘There are still around 10 million smokers across the country and smoking remains the number one cause of premature avoidable death in the UK.
‘And, making sure that you do regular exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy heart and put years on your life. It’s never too late to start.’
Sioned Quirke is a dietician and professional manager of the adult weight management service for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.
She says: ‘Obesity is nearly at epidemic level in the UK, and we must do something about it.
‘I want to see people taking responsibility over their own health and future health by becoming a healthy weight – it’s one of the only modifiable things we can do to actively become more healthy.’
As a dietician, Sioned encounters first-hand the pitfalls of many healthy-eating plans.
‘The most common mistakes I see are people trying to lose weight too fast,’ she says. ‘Set yourself a realistic goal of one or two pounds a week and no ‘diets’ – you need to make a lifestyle change to lose weight and, more importantly, maintain weight loss.
‘Portion control is key, so fill half your plate with vegatables or salad and divide the other half between protein such as meat, fish and beans and carbohydrates like rice, pasta, potatoes or bread.’
The key to a sustainable commitment for change boils down to a few points. You need to be in control of what you do, you need to have success to continue motivating yourself, and you need to share the experience.
To be in control, you need to know what your resolution is, how you will achieve it and when you will achieve it by.
Vague platitudes such as ‘lose some weight’ or ‘get more sleep’ don’t help anybody because they don’t touch upon how you will achieve it.
Being specific is the key. A resolution like ‘I will go to bed at 11pm on weekdays’ is measurable – you know if you hit the hay at 11.10pm on Monday night then you’ve missed your goal.
The same applies to setting a deadline – getting to Grade One on the clarinet by Christmas, for example, gives you a target to aim for throughout the year.
This being said, it is important not to fall off the wagon if you have a wobbly moment.
Resolutions often fall into the all-or-nothing category.
Therefore, rates of failure increase if you attempt an outright ban on whatever your particular vice may be: smoking, chocolate, biting your fingernails, watching too much trashy telly.
If you do tuck into a bar of Cadbury’s, it isn’t the end of the world – so long as you dust yourself off and persevere.
To combat this threat to resolution success, be a tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race – better to cut down to three cigarettes a day than to quit cold turkey and end up crawling back to your chain-smoking ways.
This principle applies to any resolution. Write one blog entry a month rather than one a day; do three swimming sessions a week rather than six. Once this feels like a breeze, building up to your original goal won’t seem so insurmountable.
This is just one way to look at the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve.
To relieve the stress of a daily target, make it a weekly one. How about instead of half-an-hour of daily exercise, a weekly goal of 210 minutes? Or a 10,000-calorie limit over seven days?
That way, if you stray you won’t feel as guilty because you can always make up the difference at another time.
Obviously this requires some self-control, which is the bane of many a resolution’s success.
To help feel accountable, why not post your goal on Facebook or Twitter?
Share your success with friends and ask their advice – after all, this is a change for life, not just for new year.
Why do we make resolutions?
For many, making resolutions is an integral part of New Year’s Eve. But where does the custom of setting goals for the next 12 months come from?
The tradition dates back more than 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians, who made declarations to their gods to win their favour. Some of the promises they made really aren’t much different from declarations you might make yourself – for example, pledging to return something borrowed from your neighbor, being nicer to your spouse or to or pay off a debt.
However, they celebrated the new year in March – it was up to Julius Caesar to institute January 1 as the first day of the year.
The month of January is named after the two-faced god Janus, who according to myth has the ability to look back into the past as well as into the future.
The Romans would ring in the new year by going to raucous parties, decorating their homes with laurel branches and offering sacrifices to Janus.
Medieval knights also made resolutions, taking a ‘peacock vow’ at the end of each year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry.
Nowadays, more people are deciding to improve their lives through new year’s resolutions than ever before as the tradition has spread around the world.
And while you might have sung Auld Lang Syne over a bottle of bubbly shortly after the clock struck 12, revellers in other parts of the world have different traditions.
The Spanish eat 12 grapes for every strike of the clock at midnight, the Dutch stack their spent Christmas trees up and burn them and the Japanese hold ‘forget-the-year parties’ to bid farewell to their old problems.
Jack Edwards - or Abanazar as he is better known to the audiences of Aladdin at the Kings Theatre - is an actor from Portchester.
The 37-year-old doesn’t usually make new year resolutions, but this year there are two which spring to mind.
‘I want to be more involved with my family, and I could always be a bit more fit and healthy,’ he says.
‘I want to spend more time with my mum and dad because they are going to emigrate to Bulgaria. Apparently it is the new up-and-coming Spain, they have friends out there and they are at retirement age so they are going for it.’
In terms of getting healthy, Jack knows where he needs to start.
‘It is just a case for me of cutting out alcohol and trying to eat a bit more sensibly.
‘As an actor your body clock is a bit up and down and you don’t eat at the best times.
‘Funnily enough though my next part is playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray at the Kings in February. She is meant to be a larger lady so maybe now isn’t the best time for healthy living!’
Jack thinks the reason our resolutions fail is because we are creatures of comfort.
‘We are a funny old country. We have all these ideas but then we get bored very easily and go back to our traditions.
‘ We expect these new diets and exercises to work in a couple of days and after a few weeks we give up.’
The coming year will be full of challenges for Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt.
For starters, the 41-year-old says she wants to focus on a project that’s always been close to her heart - the Hilsea Lido.
Penny says 2015 will be a transformative year for the public pool, which re-opened in July after a six-year closure.
‘The pool is functional now but there is still so much to be done on site,’ she says.
‘It has also got its 80th anniversary coming up this year.’
Penny, who is a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, says she is also aiming to wrap up her naval training in February after sitting a round of exams at HMS Excellent.
‘It’s been quite a challenge to get the swotting done along with everything else,’ she says.
Another focus for her will no doubt be the general election on May 7.
She says she wants to continue representing the region at a national level.
‘I would like to be given a second term if the people of Portsmouth want me to stick around.
‘But I will hope for the best and wait to see what happens,’ she says.
Penny says that while she doesn’t declare her resolutions at midnight on New Year’s Eve, she does keep a mental list of goals for the coming year.
This is shaping up to be a life-changing year for Portsmouth’s lord mayor.
Before Councillor Steven Wylie, 41, steps down in May he is due to become the first lord mayor of the city to become a parent while in office.
Steven and his wife are preparing for the birth of their second son in mid-January.
‘There will be more time for my family next year,’ he says.
‘It will be a very exciting time.’
But there is plenty on the lord mayoral calendar to keep Steven busy before his planned departure from local politics.
Events will include a celebration to mark the Women’s institute’s 100th anniversary and a relaunch of the Lord Mayor’s Charity Valentine’s Ball, which has not been run for several years.
‘I used to serve at the ball when I was a university student and now I’m bringing it back,’ Steven says.
While he admits to not always keeping his own resolutions, Steven says he likes the idea of setting goals at the turning of the year.
‘I am sure I have broken some resolutions in the past, but the idea of trying to motivate ourselves is a good thing,’ he says.
‘We’re all only as good as our ambition and the biggest promises are those you make to yourself.
‘Always do your best and enjoy what you do.’
SIR ROBIN KNOX-JOHNSTON
The coming year will be filled with challenge and adventure for legendary sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.
The 75-year-old, who lives in Old Portsmouth, says he has no plans to slow down in 2015.
‘In the first couple of months I’ll be training up people for the next Clipper race,’ he says.
‘Then I’m going to the West Indies to pick up my boat and then I’ll be racing it back to Cowes.
‘It’s a race across the Atlantic organised by the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron.’
Sir Robin says he will take part in another Clipper race in August, and perhaps head to Australia at the end of the year to tackle the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race for the third time.
‘There’s plenty to go on with and keep me busy.’
Sir Robin has been a leading figure in the yachting world since completing the first single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe in 1969.
He says he never makes resolutions and prefers a more pragmatic approach to life.
He says: ‘I find it far too easy to break them and then you feel disappointed with yourself, so I think it is easier not to make them in the first place. Everyone gets swept up in the enthusiasm of it all.
‘I find that if something comes up that I want to do, then I go and do it.’