New Year is a time when we set ourselves a list of wonderful, often delusional, reach-for-the stars goals. It’s a sort of love/hate, determined-to-achieve, ready-for-failure, traditional thing that encourages us on an annual basis to wipe the slate clean, write up a new agenda and once again reaffirm our desire to do everything possible to live our best lives.
In 2022, although we’re feeling battered from nearly two years of pandemic living, the indomitable human spirit still rises and demands us to lean in and step up. Yet, under the present trying circumstances, it’s a better time to go easy on ourselves and replace the usual list of hard-edged resolutions (such as losing weight, exercising more, saving money) with some gently life-enhancing suggestions. Below is a list I have gathered from a host of thoughtful, optimistic and very funny people to satisfy our innate urge to make uplifting resolutions at this time of year.
In an essay for The New Yorker magazine, Colin Nissan writes about that old chestnut, weight loss. This man, who obviously has some experience on the topic, recommends a small start, one that you can’t miss. “Start with your fingers,” he advises. Personally, I understand where this fellow is coming from. Then he follows up with more specific directions: “When those aren’t obese anymore, move on to your arms and legs, then to your torso, and finally to those crazy chipmunk cheeks of yours.”
Another, just as joyful, but depending on your viewpoint more practical, proposal comes from Trent Dalton. Mr Dalton is Australia’s best-selling author of Boy Swallows Universe, All Our Shimmering Skies and Love Stories.
At the launch of Love Stories, the father of two daughters told the audience about the celebration of his family’s called MOPH. MOPH stands for moments of pure happiness. To explain how a MOPH occurs, he described a late afternoon when his 12-year-old daughter looked across the water at a beautiful sunset and called out “MOPH”.
This young girl’s MOPH call alerted her whole family to the beauty of nature and with a corresponding “MOPH” yelp they had all chimed in, shared and claimed the moment as special. Mr Dalton says the MOPH ritual includes the proviso that all surrounding family members must stop, note and join in the moment.
I felt an MOPH when I heard this, because it was a simple, mindful and funny way to note the magic in front of our eyes – and it costs nothing.
Oprah Winfrey often deals with the hard stuff, but this year she simply says just asking the right questions of yourself can build a better you.
“Ask the right questions and the answers always reveal themselves,” she advises. “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
To understand the things to move on from and the things to work towards, she recommends asking these questions: “What do I really want to do all day? How do I want to be remembered? What has kept me going all these years? Have I made peace with my past? Do I say yes enough? What do I really want to do all day? How do I want to be remembered? What am I afraid of? Does the quality of my life currently reflect my needs and my values? Am I waiting for my real life to begin? Do I feel at home? What is the most important thing in life?”
Medical doctor, self-help guru and author Deepak Chopra also goes slowly, recommending: “Be kind and gentle with yourself. Get enough rest, regular exercise and eat a healthy diet. Listen to your body and try to avoid things that cause you discomfort. Now you’ve released your unhealthy habits, you have space to introduce some good ones. If you can’t think of any, take this advice from Lord Buddha, ‘Life is very short, so break your silly ego, forgive quickly, believe slowly, love truly, laugh loudly and never avoid anything that makes you smile.’”
But be careful what you wish for: “This could be the year you finally commit to pursuing a job you’re enthusiastic about. A resolution that’s both thrilling and terrifying. Thrilling because you actually might start doing what you love. And terrifying because you love poisonous frogs.” This sage advice issues forth from author Colin Nissan.
What do Australians want?
Australians are an irrepressible lot – despite the pandemic, this month’s national survey by Finder.com.au reveals 72 per cent of Australians – equivalent to almost 14 million people – have set a New Year’s resolution. However, one million more people are not making a New Year’s resolution compared with the same time last year.
Here’s the list of what we aim for:
- Eat healthier
- Lose weight
- Sleep more
- Be more sustainable
- Work less/have a better work-life balance
- Travel overseas
- Renovate my home
- Find love
- Take more risks
- Change my job
- Quit smoking
- Start meditating
- Move interstate/overseas
- Quit vaping
- Quit drinking
- Quit gambling
A history of New Year’s resolutions
If you have wondered where the notion of New Year’s resolutions started, you have the check the records around 2000BC. That’s when the Babylonians organised a 12-day festival called Akitu to celebrate the start of the farming season to plant crops, crown their king and promise to pay off debt.
It is said that one common resolution was the returning of borrowed farm equipment.
Later on, the timing eventually shifted with the Julian calendar in 46BC, which declared January 1 as the start of the new year.
Interesting to note that January was named for the two-faced Roman god Janus, who looks forward for new beginnings as well as backward for reflection and resolution. The Romans would offer sacrifices to Janus and make promises of good behaviour for the year ahead.
Even if you don’t keep resolutions, there are good reasons to make them anyway.
The chief one is because just having a positive intention is good for the soul. To make that intention, you have to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about what you would like to change, how you could go about it and how you will stick to it.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.