There are many New Year's traditions - the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of pork and sauerkraut (which they thought was lucky but may not be so lucky for your digestion), the fireworks, the champagne, the sparkly hats, the ageless Dick Clark.
But the tradition of making New Year's resolutions is one that has thrived despite all of the changes over time, since the days of the Babylonians, some say. If it is because people need an impetus to change their ways, or because it is a marketing dream for all manner of self-help industries, resolutions are still a part of the year-end festivities.
But how well has this tradition held up? With all of the problems today, including the economy, do people still focus on making positive changes? And if they do, what is the benefit?
First, the experts. A big reason that people may not make or keep resolutions as much anymore is the high failure rate. Dr. Mehmet Oz, of "Oprah" fame, said that "Whatever your resolution, commit to doing it for at least two weeks. Two weeks is what your brain needs to reprocess the way it makes decisions."
Popular New Year's resolutions
l Lose weight
l Manage debt
l Save money
l Get a better job
l Get fit
l Get a better education
l Drink less alcohol
l Quit smoking now
l Reduce stress overall
l Reduce stress at work
l Take a trip
l Volunteer to help others
Dr. Oz offers up the usual slew of New Year's resolution ideas: making more time for family, walking, doing yoga, eating better. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle seems to be the crux of the resolution-making process.
Mandy Campiana, coordinator of fitness and wellness at the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Youngstown State University, agrees. "I think that people still make resolutions. Everyone's goal is to be healthy." Campiana, like Dr. Oz, suggests that resolvers "set short, realistic goals. And do it because you want to, instead of feeling like you have to."
The Wellness Center offers fitness assessments so that those looking for a healthier lifestyle can find out where they stand, giving their resolution a better success rate. "And it's all free for students, except personal training," said Campiana. There are also incentive programs to keep up the motivation, and to keep resolvers focused on their goals.
Do young people still make this commitment? Campiana said she definitely sees an increase in rec center attendance after the new year.
Kelly Chaffee, Wellness Center employee, agrees. "We're definitely more crowded between Christmas break and spring break, and then it dies down," she said.
Some people still have faith in the resolution process. "I still do New Year's resolutions," said Janelle Yohman, 29, of Hubbard. "But I've pretty much always kept them to myself, probably to avoid the non-existent shame of not following through if you announce your resolutions to friends."
Yohman said that "the last one I set for myself was to volunteer more. I actually did follow up on it, but not as much as I'd hoped. It seems as if they're for people who have a hard time keeping goals. We use the New Year for its 'start fresh' excuse."
Cathy Miller of Youngstown said, "I totally still do New Year's resolutions. They're usually close to the same thing every year, and its usually just generally improving as a person."
Some people try and make some familiar goals. Jessy Maravola, of Girard, said her resolution is to "get my butt outta debt. I like setting a resolution and seeing how long I keep it."
Katelyn Bowden, 24, of Canfield, said, "Every year I resolve to quit smoking. No luck yet, but I think this is the year."
Other people, however, are losing faith in the resolution-making tradition. Adam Post, 29, of Austintown, said, "I think people make them, but I don't think they usually take it seriously or bother to keep them."
Sarah Bokone, 23, of Warren, agreed that the resolution has lost its power. "I don't think many people actually follow their New Year's resolution. I think we only make up a goal on the spot just because we feel we have to. I don't think I've ever really followed mine. Actually, I don't think I've made one in about eight years."
Like the experts, Bokone realizes that starting small is the best way to keep a resolution. "I try to make daily/weekly resolutions. They seem to be more realistic. I think that New Year's resolutions are far-fetched goals. We need to take small steps in order to change whatever we are trying to change."
Glenna Fitch, 24, of Kent, thinks that resolution-making may be just a force of habit. "There are ones you make superficially because it's conversation with people you don't know as well - co-workers, gym buddies - and generally never held. Just kind of a placeholders for topics."
But, Fitch said, when the right one comes to you, you know it. "There's ones that come with random epiphanies throughout the year that you either do right then and there, or hold off for January so you can get a fresh start to it."
Bill Youngman, of Hubbard, thinks that the whole tradition has lost its good intention. "It has always seemed to me that there are two different kinds of New Year's resolutions; the typical 'lose weight,' 'quit smoking,' 'eat healthy' bandwagon resolutions that people talk about with one another, and sometimes, albeit rarely, are these resolutions followed through with - they are more about perception."
Like Fitch, Youngman said that the resolution has to have a personal meaning. "These are the ones you don't find out about until March or April, while you are talking to a friend and find out that they lost 50 lbs, reconnected with their estranged family member, or are finally going on vacation or moving. These resolutions are more personal, and less apt to be discussed in random conversation as they are being made. They are not for show, and often the resolution maker feels awkward about discussing the issue initially."
"Point being, the only way to affect positive change in one's life is to make the decision for yourself, not because you want to fit in and have something to talk about at Starbucks,"?Youngman said. "And especially not because the arbitrary system we use to keep track of time said 'Jan. 1.'"