As the New Year looms ahead, I remember that it’s almost time to choose which of my shortcomings I’ll target as my resolution to tackle in January. After all, is there any better way to punish myself for my overindulgence during the month of December?
I wonder if the Romans realized how much grief they would cause someday when, back in 153 BC they voted to declare January 1st the beginning of the New Year. Way back in 2000 BC, the early Babylonians, who had originally named March 23rd the beginning of the New Year based on the start of crop-planting season, weren’t nearly as hard on themselves as we are today. After all, their most popular New Year’s resolution was to return any farm implements that they’d borrowed from their neighbors.
We should be so lucky. Every December 31st, we modern-day folk insist on looking back with a critical eye, looking forward with an idealistic eye, and coming up with at least one way to put a damper on the month ahead. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that we even have a top ten list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions:
- Spend more time with family and friends. Magazine polls show that more than 50% of us vow to appreciate our loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year. My family and friends already take up far too much of my time. I plan to spend more quality time with myself this year.
- Exercise. Anyone with half a brain knows that exercise reduces the risk of certain diseases, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, etcetera. So why is it that most of us spend not only the month of January, but every month that follows, beating ourselves up over the fact that we can’t seem to stick to it? I already know that exercise will, once again, be at the top of my list of resolutions for 2017 since it’s been reappearing there every single year since 1986.
- Lose Weight. According to statistics, the vast majority of us are clinically overweight, so (surprise!) weight loss is one of the most popular of all the resolutions. With this also being my resolution for the past twenty January firsts, I’ve alternated donating fat clothes and, later, skinny clothes to the Salvation Army for so many years that I know I could walk into the store at any one time and find pieces of my clothing in every size category.
- Quit Smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body. It increases your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, impotence, infertility, lower bone density and more. It also adds wrinkles to your skin that wouldn’t otherwise be there, stains your teeth and makes you smell like a dirty firepit. Ick. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t despair. On average, smokers make the attempt about four times before they quit for good. Really, why would you want to risk shortening your life span with all these resolutions to look forward to every January 1st?
- Enjoy Life More. I know we lead hectic, stressful lifestyles these days, but do you really need to be told to do this? Come on, people! Pick up the phone and call in sick!
- Quit Drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking alcohol, there’s a world of support available right in your community. In my case, I don’t imbibe enough and I’d probably be doing myself a favor by substituting a glass of red wine for every coffee I chug throughout the day.
- Get Out of Debt. Money is the number one cause of friction between spouses. Most of us don’t need all the stuff we already have, so why buy more? With that said, try chopping up your spouse’s credit cards on January 1st (but find a good hidey hole for your own).
- Learn Something New. There is so much to learn in the world around us. So get moving. Learn a language, master a hobby or a dance step. Whether you take a course or read a book, education is one of the easiest and most stimulating of all the resolutions to keep. A challenged mind is a sharp mind. (Now, where did I put my book?)
- Help Others. When you help others, you help yourself in a most spiritual way. Whether you mentor a child or build a house or volunteer at a hospital, volunteer organizations can always use your help.
- Get Organized. Unless your entire life has somehow been electronically wired so you just have to clap to find everything in it, you probably need to organize all your nooks and crannies. Cleaning out the flotsam is empowering. Begin with a closet. And this spring, when your mate can’t find the golf clubs, simply remind him/her about Resolution number one!