THOUSANDS of people will pledge to turn their lives around at the stroke of midnight tonight.
And a Welsh academic claims achieving these New Year Resolutions for a new and improved life could be aided by hypnosis.
Bryan Bennett says hypnosis must shed its image of stage-show quackery as the technique can be used to treat everything from asthma to arthritis.
He says hypnosis has been used for thousands of years as a form of pain relief and wants to see it embraced by the medical profession.
The PhD student from the University of Wales, Bangor, is involved in research work that attempts to prove hypnosis can successfully treat arthritis. In the trials sufferers identify the areas of their lives most affected by their condition, whether it be an inability to perform particular tasks or hobbies or interests. These will then be the focus of a course of individual hypnotherapy and imaging sessions - where patients are encouraged to form positive mental images of themselves.
Mr Bennett, 34, said patients have told him they feel better after taking part in the trials.
He said, "There have been some positive changes in people we have seen in the group, but nothing you can measure objectively. People have said they have experienced a reduction in pain and others have said they are better able to relax than they were before."
Mr Bennett was introduced to the potential health benefits of hypnotherapy while working as a research assistant at Imperial College, London. There he worked on similar trials on the efficacy of hypnotherapy on breast cancer and HIV patients.
Mr Bennett, 34, says arthritis is a disease of the immune system and hypnosis may work by bringing a form of psychological relief that can boost the body's mechanism for fighting infection.
"There are lots of applications to hypnosis - it can even be used as an anaesthetic in childbirth.
"We used it with breast cancer and HIV patients and found it got results in terms of people coping better. In terms of psychological quality of life it's definitely important. And perhaps psychological improvements may boost the immune system and so be of physical benefit in that way."
Other potential uses for hypnotherapy are as an alternative to anaesthetic in dentistry.
Mr Bennett says research shows some patients are more hypnotisable than others. These tend to be the kind of people who find it easy to become deeply absorbed in a book or TV programme, almost to the exclusion of everything else.
"People who are very open to suggestion benefit most. It's about your ability to become absorbed and focus attention on a particular thing.
"If you're reading a book and you lose track of time that is a form of hypnosis because your attention is totally focused on the book.
"If you've been watching a film and you pick up your cup of tea and it's empty that's a form of hypnosis because your attention has been really focused and you've become unaware of the surrounding environment."
Mr Bennett is splitting those taking part in his research into three groups - one receiving hypnotherapy, another is treated through imaging and the third is the control group receiving no intervention.
He hopes to be able to publish interim results early next year before his study is completed in around 18 months' time.
He is still looking for volunteers to take part, but anyone interested must have been stabilised on their current treatment for three months. Contact Mr Bennett on 01248 388147 or through e-mail email@example.com