Journey into a New Year

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man [well, person 🙂 ].” Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790), one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat
Another new year is about to start. Most of us are probably contemplating making a few New Year’s resolutions that we hope will make it past January. Some of us might even decide to skip making any for this year. Wikipedia gives us some insight as to how this tradition got it’s start in the first place:

A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.

Religious Origins

Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

In the Medieval era, the knights took thepeacock vowat the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions [see opening paragraph].

This tradition has many other religious parallels. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People can act similarly during the Christian liturgical season of Lent, although the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility. In fact, the Methodist practice of New Year’s resolutions came, in part, from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.

Participation

At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year’s resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did. In fact, according to the American Medical Association, approximately 40% to 50% of Americans participated in the New Year’s resolution tradition from the 1995 Epcot and 1985 Gallop Polls. A study found 46% of participants who made common New Year’s resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programs, quitting smoking) were likely to succeed, over ten times as among those deciding to make life changes at other times of the year.

Popular goals

Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible.

Popular goals include resolutions to:

  • Improve physical well-being: eat healthy food, lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails, get rid of old bad habits
  • Improve mental well-being: think positive, laugh more often, enjoy life
  • Improve finances: get out of debt, save money, make small investments
  • Improve career: perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business
  • Improve education: improve grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music), study often, read more books, improve talents
  • Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent, perhaps watch less television, play fewer sitting-down video games
  • Take a trip
  • Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity, volunteer to work part-time in a charity organization
  • Get along better with people, improve social skills, enhance social intelligence
  • Make new friends
  • Spend quality time with family members
  • Settle down, get engaged/get married, have kids
  • Pray more, be more spiritual
  • Be more involved in sports or different activities
  • Spend less time on social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr etc.)

Success rate

The most common reason for participants failing their New Year’s resolutions was setting themselves unrealistic goals (35%), while 33% didn’t keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it. About one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying “lose weight”). (Quote source here.)

Also in that 2007 study by Richard Wiseman, he gives some hints for achieving our New Year’s resolutions:

Make Only One Resolution – Many often people make the mistake of trying to achieve too much. The chances of success are greater when people channel their energy into changing just one aspect of their behavior.

Plan ahead  Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution. Last minute decisions tend to be based on what is on your mind at that time. Instead, take some time out a few days before and reflect upon what you really want to achieve. 

Avoid previous resolutions – Deciding to re-visit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment. Choose something new, or approach an old problem in a new way. For example, instead of trying to lose 2 stone in weight, try exercising more.

Be specific – Think through exactly what you are going to do, where you are going to do it, and at what time. Vague plans fail. For example, instead of saying that you will go running two days of the week, tell yourself that you will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m.

Make it personal  Don’t run with the crowd and go with the usual resolutions. Instead think about what you really want out of life, so think about finishing that novel, or learning to play an instrument, rather than just losing weight and getting to the gym. (Quote source and more suggestions here.)

Early 20th Century New Year’s resolution postcards

And, here are a few more suggestions from an article titled, Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick,” by the American Psychological Association to get us on the right track for achieving our New Year’s resolutions:

Lose weight? Check. Start exercising? Check. Stop smoking? Check.

It can be daunting when your list of New Year’s Resolutions is as long as your holiday shopping list. In addition to the post-holiday slump, not being able to keep your resolutions by February, March or even late January may increase your anxiety. When your holiday decorations are packed up and stored away, the frustration of an unused gym membership or other reminders of failed resolutions can make the later winter months feel hopeless.

However, it is important to remember that the New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes. It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive lifestyle changes. “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”

By making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that you will keep them throughout the year, incorporating healthy behavior into your everyday life. APA offers these tips when thinking about a News Year’s resolution:

Start small

Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.

Change one behavior at a time 

Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.

Talk about it 

Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

Don’t beat yourself up

Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

Ask for support

Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your resolution. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable, as well as help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues. (Quote source here.)

So, with that in mind, we still have a couple of days to think about what we really want to strive for at the beginning of 2019. I’ll end this post with a quote by Michael Josephson, speaker and lecturer, former law professor and attorney, founder and president of the Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics and of CHARACTER COUNTS!, and author of The Power of CharacterApproach the New Year with resolve to find…

The opportunities . . .

Hidden in . . .

Each new day . . . .

YouTube Video: “New Year’s Day” by Carole King:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit
here
Photo #3 credit here

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