It’s already begun. I’ve put my running shoes in the wash to get rid of the mould and spiderwebs. I’ve created a new Excel spreadsheet to keep track of where all my money ends up. I’m eyeing off a “guitar for idiots” book. That’s right – it’s the semi-aspirational, mostly delusional time when I look at the new year stretching out ahead of me, and make resolutions about all the ways I’m going to fix my silly little life.

But research shows I’m not alone in being obsessed with the transformative potential of a good resolution. Over 70% of Australians are reported to have set at least one new year resolution in 2022. And this is not a trend, either – the practice of making resolutions goes back 4,000 years.

According to psychology professor Joanne Dickson, pledges, promises, vows and resolutions around the new year have been a long practice in history. From the ancient Babylonians – the first recorded people in history to make new year pledges – to knights in the Middle Ages who would lay their hands on a roast peacock and renew their vows to maintain knighthood values, the new year resolution seems to be a staple of the human psyche.

But I imagine ancient resolutions were very different to today (this year I vow not to contract or spread the bubonic plague, or die from a volcanic winter).

Patrick Lenton

Deputy Arts + Culture Editor

Where did the new year’s resolution come from? Well, we’ve been making them for 4,000 years

Joanne Dickson, Edith Cowan University

New Year resolutions continue to capture people’s imagination, hopes, and promises for betterment. Even after 4,000 years, the New Year continues to symbolise an opportunity for a fresh start.

Tampa, Bali bombings, 9/11 and the Kyoto Protocol: today’s cabinet paper release shows what worried Australia in 2002

David Lee, UNSW Sydney

This year’s release, from the cabinet records of 2002, is framed by two events of the previous year: the Tampa affair and 9/11.

It’s OK to aim lower with your new year’s exercise resolutions – a few minutes a day can improve your muscle strength

Ken Nosaka, Edith Cowan University

New research shows even one muscle contraction a day, for five days a week, is effective at improving muscle strength if you keep it up for a month.

12 ways to finally achieve your most elusive goals

Peter A. Heslin, UNSW Sydney; Lauren A. Keating, EM Lyon; Ute-Christine Klehe, University of Giessen

Setting goals is one thing. Achieving them another. We’ve distilled the research down to 12 goal-enabling tips.

Exploring the mathematical universe – connections, contradictions, and kale

Joan Licata, Australian National University

Mathematicians are like anatomists learning how a body works, or navigators charting new waters.

My favourite fictional character: Seven Little Australians’ wild heroine, Judy, was equipped to conquer the world – but not to survive it

Edwina Preston, The University of Melbourne

Edwina Preston tells why her favourite literary heroine is Seven Little Australians’ Judy Woolcot and her ‘bone-true authenticity of self’ – beating fellow tomboys Jo March and Anne Shirley.

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