Intended for healthcare professionals


New Year's resolutions

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 16 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1413
  1. Chris McManus, professor of psychology and medical education (
  1. University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

    Mind the gap between intention and behaviour

    New Year's Day is nothing but an arbitrary day that, for instance, was celebrated by the Babylonians at the new moon after the spring equinox (and next year, the 1 Nisanu 2631 will be on what we call 9 April 2005 ( On 1 January no check, no pause, no planetary escapement in the celestial clockwork will take place as our planet spins relentlessly around its sun. Its only importance is for the human mind.

    A complex history places New Year's Day just seven days after the great religious and commercial festival of Christmas. The week between Yule and Hogmanay is known in German as zwischen den Jahren (between the years), the magical period when little work gets done, next Christmas is a year away, and there is time for reflection. And since “to make an end is to make a beginning,” as T S Eliot said, many new beginnings are resolved …

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