Happy New Year: Can we break down what that really means in 2022?

There has been very little “Happy” news over the last two weeks. The Omicron variant has marched across the country, finally making the pandemic a personal experience for everyone. We all now know friends or family members who have contracted COVID-19 – and if you haven’t been infected yet, you’ve likely accepted that it will inevitably happen.

And “New Year”? Doesn’t seem new at all – in many parts of the country, kids are once again doing home schooling, restrictions have been re-applied to businesses and Québec has brought back its overnight curfew. One of the funniest things I saw on Twitter this week was the suggestion this year is actually “2020 too.”

Should we really say “Happy New Year” this year? I may be going out on a limb here, but my answer is yes. The science suggests Omicron is causing less severe symptoms and is not as deadly as previous variants. Almost 30 million Canadians are now fully vaccinated and more than 20 per cent of the population has received booster shots. If I squint, it seems I can see something at the end of the tunnel.

Has the pandemic made it harder for you to commit to a New Year’s resolution? Or are you more motivated than ever this year to achieve a new goal as part of a plan to conquer the pandemic doldrums?

The Conversation devotes a lot of coverage at this time of year to explain the science behind New Year’s resolutions – great advice on healthy eating, exercise, mental motivation and even some explanations why resolutions are so hard to keep. I’ve assembled a few of them below – and be sure to listen to The Conversation Weekly podcast for a preview of some scientific advances for 2022.

So I really do wish you a resounding Happy New Year…and have a happy weekend too. We'll be back in your Inbox on Monday.

Scott White

CEO | Editor-in-Chief

Weekend Reads: New Year, New Resolutions

Plant-based doesn’t always mean healthy

Meghan McGee, University of Toronto

As new year’s resolutions start pouring in, you may want to reconsider a plant-based diet if your motivation is health.

You can’t outrun your fork. But that doesn’t mean exercise can’t help you lose weight or change your diet.

Cassandra J. Lowe, Western University

Exercise can’t make up for a poor diet, but it can help change eating habits. Regular exercise improves the brain and cognitive processes that help regulate junk food consumption and reduces stress.

Learn time management to make those New Year’s resolutions stick

Brad Aeon, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

New Year’s resolutions can help us aim for a better future, but time management is the real key to actually achieving those resolutions.

Got health goals? Research-based tips for adopting and sticking to new healthy lifestyle behaviours

Ryan Rhodes, University of Victoria

Over half of people who intend to make healthy lifestyle changes fail to do so. Understanding the automatic tendencies that prevent people from enacting a new health habit can help them stick to it.

Junk food and the brain: How modern diets lacking in micronutrients may contribute to angry rhetoric

Bonnie Kaplan, University of Calgary; Julia J Rucklidge, University of Canterbury

Ultra-processed foods high in sugar, fat and empty carbs are bad for the mind as well as the body. Lack of micronutrients affects brain function and influences mood and mental health symptoms.

The best way to follow through on your New Year’s resolution? Make an ‘old year’s resolution’

Mark Canada, Indiana University Kokomo; Christina Downey, Indiana University

An ‘old year’ approach takes into account findings from psychological research and the wisdom of habit guru Benjamin Franklin.

Weightlifting: how beginners can get started this new year

Athalie Redwood-Brown, Nottingham Trent University; Angus Hunter, Nottingham Trent University

Weightlifting can be done by people of all ages and fitness levels.

4 New Year’s resolutions for a healthier environment in 2022

Viniece Jennings, Agnes Scott College

An environmental health scholar shares four resolutions to improve your relationship with the environment – and its prospects for the future.

‘Drained and wary of the future’: why you might feel different about New Year’s resolutions this year

Jayashri Kulkarni, Monash University

After two years of pandemic life, New Year’s resolutions may come with a new intensity.

COVID kilos: why now is the best time to shed them

Hoi Lun Cheng, University of Sydney; Amanda Salis, The University of Western Australia

Your body might need a nudge to return to its pre-lockdown weight. And it’s probably better to act now than wait.

The Conversation Weekly podcast

mRNA vaccines, asteroid missions and collaborative robots: what to watch in science in 2022 – podcast

Daniel Merino, The Conversation; Gemma Ware, The Conversation

Experts give us a science preview for 2022, plus what lies in store for global inequality. Listen to The Conversation Weekly podcast.