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Why Some Millennials and Gen Zers Are Starting Early on New Year’s Resolutions

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For the past 10 years, Alex Boughen made big, determined New Year’s resolutions. “It was always eating healthier, working out more, that kind of thing,” he said.

The problem was he could never keep them. “I was one of those people who went to the gym on Jan. 2,” said Mr. Boughen, 28, who works for a communications agency in Ontario. A couple of weeks later, he said, “they never saw my face again.”

Sometime this summer, it dawned on him that he could approach things differently. Rather than wait until the first day of the new year to overhaul his habits, he would try and make small and incremental changes. If he missed a run one morning, he would go for a walk after dinner instead. He would try to eat a few meals at home where he could control the ingredients and make sure they were healthy.

Most important, messing up one day didn’t mean giving up completely. “If I don’t hit a goal one day, I just try again the next day,” he said. “It’s a much better strategy than waiting until the new year to try again.”

The new year is almost here, and with it, myriad resolutions. But some millennials and Gen Zers are abandoning the tradition, opting instead to work on themselves year-round or the moment they realize they need to change. If they really want to do things differently, they figure, why wait for Jan. 1?

Mr. Boughen pointed out that the reason many people don’t accomplish their goals is because they procrastinate. “A lot of us find ourselves always pushing things off,” he said. “I always say I will start on Monday, or I will start in the new year. That was toxic for me.”

Noah Schnable, 20, a student at Southern New Hampshire University, also found himself pushing off his goals of becoming a well known game streamer. “To do what I want, I need to stream at least three or four hours a day,” he said. “But I definitely have a procrastination issue where I put everything off until the next day.”

He thought about making a New Year’s resolution but ultimately decided the only way to achieve his goals was to start immediately. “Now when I find myself saying I’ll stream tomorrow or a little bit later in the week, I just say to myself, ‘Actually, you have time to do it now,’” he said.

Another benefit to this strategy is that he is going to feel much more confident going into 2022 knowing he’s already made progress on his dreams. “On New Year’s I will hopefully have a really good feeling that I have already started on my goals,” he said. “It feels good to know I am already on my way.”

Other young people are being realistic about what they need to accomplish a lasting change — and it isn’t a trendy New Year’s resolution.

Abbey Phaneuf, 22, who lives in New York and is a marketing associate at Loftie, a company that makes consumer goods that help you sleep better, said that every year she feels pressure to make a resolution.

“I get a lot of TikToks that are about workout routines, and how to change your body in a month, and what you should be eating,” she said. “I think people see other people trying to become the best versions of themselves, and they feel like they should do the same.”

But she knows that in order to really change her life, she has to want to go deep within; it can’t just be something she is doing because of groupthink. “If you are just going to the gym because of something you saw on TikTok, that isn’t sustainable.”

She’s skipping the whole resolution thing this year. Instead, she’s focusing on making the change she wants — participating in more activities in New York City — gradually. “I’ve been looking up things for a while — running clubs and volunteering,” she said. “It’s an ongoing goal of mine, and I’m going to do it when I’m ready.”

Emily Mooshian, 27, a proofreader in Haverhill, Mass., also used to feel pressure to declare a resolution on New Year’s. “I’ve always viewed a New Year’s resolution as something I have to do because everyone else is doing it,” she said. “But I also feel like this is stupid. I’m not going to stick with it if I’m doing it because everyone else is.”

That’s why this year she decided to work on herself on her own schedule.

In October she started feeling burned out because she was doing too many favors for people. She was helping plan surprise birthday parties for friends and going on trips she didn’t really want to attend. “I decided I was going to have a New Year’s resolution to say ‘no’ more often and take care of my mental health,” she said. And she was determined not to wait until the first day of 2022 to start.

So far she already turned down a trip to Nashville over the holidays and said no to a friend who wanted her to dog sit. “If I would have waited until January to start my resolution, I would have said yes to these things and been exhausted,” she said. “Now I feel good sooner.”

Like Ms. Mooshian, other people think their resolutions are so important that they can’t wait.

Jarrett Adlof, 34, a pop punk musician in Dallas, has felt so much negativity in the world this year. “We’ve all been through such an awful two years,” he wrote in an email. “I need more positivity going into 2022. I can’t let these last few weeks beat me down on the way.”

That’s why he decided to start his resolution — to mute accounts on social media that are mostly posting negative thoughts — in the middle of December, rather than wait until the new year.

“I’ve muted a couple, and that’s a start,” he said. “I feel great.”

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Ask Amy: Readers offer their own advice

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Dear Amy: I was troubled by your response to Cathy S., who told her family to leave all their old hurts and issues at home for the holidays.

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20 Best New Year’s Eve Movies of All Time

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The spirit of reflection and resolution is a popular theme when it comes to a lot of Hollywood classics. So it’s no surprise that a holiday marked by such sentiments has been featured across so many films. Perhaps your resolution this New Year’s resembles the hero’s journey: a call to action and commitment to change against all odds. Maybe you’re more of the rom-com type, just focused on securing that midnight kiss with the one that got away.

Either way, if you’re already imagining the trailer of the coming year, or reminiscing on the highlight reel of years past, there’s a perfect New Year’s movie out there for you. Whether you’re looking for some festive film to play post-ball drop during your New Year’s Eve celebrations, or scrolling for some hungover inspiration on New Year’s Day, the possibilities are endless. So, grab your champagne (or Pedialyte) and ring in the new year with these New Year’s movies.

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Phantom Thread

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as an acclaimed London dressmaker who must tailor his lifestyle to fit in his newfound muse. One of the most gorgeous sequences of the film occurs amidst the aftermath of a wild New Year’s Eve party.

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The Godfather II (1974)

It’s at a New Year’s Eve party in Cuba that Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone plants the kiss of death on Fredo and tells him: “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.”

Amazon AppleTV+

Trading Places (1983)

Two brothers who run a commodities brokerage in Philadelphia try some light social engineering when they switch the identities of their employee, Louis Winthorpe III, played by Dan Aykroyd, and a hustler, Billy Ray Valentine, played by Eddie Murphy. Jamie Lee Curtis is there to help them sort it out and get even. Undeniably a classic comedy, this is also a holiday movie, because one of the film’s most crucial scenes takes place at a New Year’s Eve party aboard a train.

Amazon AppleTV+ Hulu

Carol

If its lead lovers meeting during December can make Carol a Christmas movie, then surely their first kiss happening on December 31st can make it a New Year’s Eve film. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 romance novel Salt, Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women in 1950s New York who become enveloped in a forbidden love affair.

Amazon AppleTV+

Sleepless in Seattle

Few arcs capture the holiday’s spirit of hope quite like Sam Baldwin transitioning from a heartbreaking scene about talking to his deceased wife on New Year’s Eve to seeking new love on Valentine’s Day. This classic rom-com starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will have you running to the Empire State Building to profess your feelings for the one you love.

Amazon AppleTV+

About Time

When 21-year-old Tim Lake, played by Domhnall Gleeson, learns that he has inherited the ability to time travel and can do anything so long as it doesn’t alter history, his plan is simple: Get the girl. Of course, winning the heart of the love of his life, played by Rachel McAdams, proves to be the last of his worries as time unfolds.

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The Gold Rush

Sure, watching Charlie Chaplin get stood up on New Year’s Eve is one aspect of The Gold Rush, but the slapstick charm of this classic silent film is perfect for reflecting on how times have changed. Not to mention, its silent nature makes for perfect background for a New Year’s Eve gathering.

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When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Probably the greatest romantic comedy of all time, When Harry Met Sally… defined the genre for a generation to come. The dialogue is whip smart; New York shines; Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal charm and delight. The New Year’s connection comes at the end during a New Year’s Eve party.

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The Apartment (1960)

Jack Lemmon is a young man on the make who lets his company’s executives use his apartment for extra-marital affairs. After an office Christmas party, he finds his boss’s mistress, a young woman played by Shirley MacLaine, whom he knows from the office, at his apartment, where she’s tried to overdose on pills. They strike up a complicated relationship with multiple entanglements, both professional and personal. It’s a remarkable movie (and a Best Picture winner) that ends on New Year’s Eve.

Amazon AppleTV+

Snowpiercer (2013)

This isn’t just one of the great New Year’s movies, this is one of the best dystopian thrillers in years. Forced to live on a train that circles the world in an endless loop, the back half of the carts, who live in squalor, decide to rise up under Chris Evans’s leadership and take down the wealthy upperclass who’re toasting to another year of splendor.

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The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The ’70s were a golden age for disaster films, and not just for the high stakes either. This Gene Hackman-led drama about a luxury cruise liner that capsizes during a New Year’s Eve party is pure adrenaline.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

In this romantic comedy, Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones keeps a diary of a year of romantic misadventures. The movie begins and ends on New Year’s Eve, and it’s delightful as hell.

Amazon AppleTV+ Paramount+

An Affair to Remember (1957)

A weepy romance classic featuring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr begins on New Year’s Eve, where the two main characters, engaged to others, promise to meet up in six months atop the Empire State Building. (If you decide to watch this one, considering following it up with Sleepless in Seattle, which references the movie.)

Amazon AppleTV+

Ghostbusters II (1989)

It’s a far cry from Ghostbusters, but when the movie came out in 1989—five years after the first one—audiences delighted in seeing Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston back in action. The movie reaches its conclusion on New Year’s Eve, with a chorus of New Yorkers singing “Auld Lang Syne” in an attempt to defeat an evil spirit terrorizing the city.

Amazon AppleTV+

Highball (1997)

The writer and director of this film—in which a group of friends meet at three different parties: on Halloween, a birthday, and New Year’s Eve—is Noah Baumbach, who made Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, and others. It’s one of his earliest films and, as such, it’s rough and feels as low budget as it is. But the movie captures the rhythms and dialogue of young adults simply hanging out.

Amazon

Ocean’s 11 (1960)

For a time in the 1960s, the Rat Pack could have released a two-hour film of themselves sleeping and it would’ve made money. Ocean’s 11, which inspired the 2000 remake, is better than that (the team’s 1964 effort, Robin and the 7 Hoods, is not) but it’s not a great film. This is a fun movie, however, with some of the 20th century’s greatest performers clearly having a great time—especially, you can tell, when the cameras aren’t rolling.

AppleTV+ Hulu

Four Rooms (1995)

A bellhop goes into four different rooms on New Year’s Eve, and each room becomes its own short film, with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez directing. The stories themselves are based loosely on Roald Dahl’s adult fiction.

Amazon AppleTV+

200 Cigarettes (1999)

In this 1999 comedy, a group of people make their way to a New Year’s Eve party in New York in 1981. The best part of the movie—which features an ensemble cast, including Ben Affleck, Paul Rudd, Kate Hudson, Gaby Hoffmann, and Christina Ricci—is the setting: New York in the early ‘80s. That’s worth the price of admission.

This movie is not available to stream.

Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! (1986)

Charlie Brown frets over a book report, a New Year’s Eve party, and a red-headed girl. And unlike A Charlie Brown Christmas, in the end, nothing turns out well for Charlie Brown in this 30-minute special.

AppleTV+

New Year’s Eve (2011)

In the pantheon of Gary Marshall films, it may not be his best, but there’s something about ending the year with a feel good movie that features an ensemble cast.

Amazon AppleTV+ HBO Max

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Wallice, an Indie Pop Sensation from Los Angeles

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Name: Wallice

Age: 23

Hometown: Los Angeles

Currently Lives: In a three-bedroom bungalow house in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles with her longtime boyfriend, Callaghan Kevany, and a friend.

Claim to Fame: Wallice (whose full name is Wallice Hana Watanabe) is a singer-songwriter best known for “Punching Bag,” a song about self-deception in toxic relationships; her follow-up hit, “23,” about the perils of living with her mother during the pandemic, has had three million streams on Spotify. Sample lyric: “I’m terrified of the future/ Scared that I’ll still be a loser.”

“I credit the pandemic to be able to find an audience, because I think a lot of people had time to listen to music and find new artists,” Wallice said.

Big Break: In 2020, shortly after Wallice released “Punching Bag,” Spotify decided to feature the song on its Lorem playlist — an influential list that showcases new artists and now has more than 900,000 followers.

“A lot of my friends are indie artists that are coming up in the scene,” she said. “They kept reposting the song, and that’s how I got Spotify’s attention.” The song took off from there and has been streamed more than four million times.

Latest Project: In October, Wallice signed with Dirty Hit, an independent record label in London that’s also home to the 1975, an English boy band. In November she released the single “Wisdom Tooth,” a bubbly pop tune that was written the night before she went to the dentist. “I was so nervous,” she said. “I had a recording session that day and was like, ‘There’s no way I can write about anything else.’”

Next Thing: In the new year, she’ll join the band Still Woozy on tour. “I’m really excited about going on tour, especially since my bandmates are my best friends,” she said. “My boyfriend is our guitar player, and my bass player I’ve known forever.”

What’s in a Name?: Wallice went without a name at birth because her parents thought they were having a boy. A few days later, her father named her after Wallis Simpson, the American socialite who later became the wife of Prince Edward, after he abdicated the British throne to marry her. “I really like my name, and I love how it is unique,” Wallice said.

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