Kinder, Gentler New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep
People have been making New Year’s resolutions since the time of Julius Caesar, when January got its name from Janus, the two headed god. One head looked backward at the old year, and the other looked forward into the new one, making Janus the patron of bridges, doorways, beginnings and endings.
To the people of that time, January seemed the perfect time for making resolutions to end old, destructive behaviors and initiate new, constructive ones. The practice of making yearly resolutions continued throughout centuries, often falling out of favor, only to be resurrected. The resolutions evolved through time, often taking on the religious and moral overtones of the current society, but the sentiment remained the same: a promise to oneself to end old, negative behaviors and begin new, positive ones.
In the early 1700’s American philosopher and theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote 70 resolutions, some of them heavy-handed in nature, but not unlike the ones we make today. For example, Edwards resolved to live as he would have wished he lived when he came to die, an all-encompassing and difficult one to keep, day in and day out. He also resolved never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings, an equally-daunting task, given the number of irrational beings one encounters on a regular basis, particularly if one is required to navigate the modern freeway system.
An easier resolution to keep, and one that has evolved and survived, was his resolution for strict temperance in what he would eat and drink. Another of his resolutions that serves us today is his resolution not to speak evil of anyone, so as to discredit or dishonor them. His resolution, not to do anything out of revenge, is also relevant in our society.
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions has survived the test of time, because of its simple promise to make things better and the opportunity each January to start anew, erase the past slate and begin with a fresh, blank one.
Statistics and scientific studies of the personal and far-reaching impact of New Year’s resolutions abound, but the whole idea of making New Year’s resolutions is a personal commitment to oneself, and the best resolutions are made in the heart of each individual. Some people like to make lists of very specific resolutions, or write lengthy journal entries on each one, while others might simply make mental notes to do something, often not even calling them resolutions.
Some things we do know, from our own and others’ experiences, is that the kinder and gentler we are with ourselves, the more likely we are to benefit from making the resolutions. We are also more likely to keep and benefit from resolutions that not only help us, but serve others as well.
Some suggestions for kinder, gentler resolutions include:
- Make a promise to spend a little time each day in quiet reverie. Even five minutes lying or sitting in a comfortable position, alone in a quiet place can do wonders for body and soul.
- Promise yourself you will not fall asleep at night while you are worrying, feeling angry or thinking about problems. Resolve to deal with those emotions at another time. If you have trouble emptying your mind to relax, focus your thoughts on kittens, puppies, baby birds, infants, horses or anything that makes you smile and feel warm inside.
- Resolve to eat more mindfully. This means finding a pleasant place to eat, focusing on the smell, texture and taste of the food and thoroughly chewing each bite.
- Begin a meditation practice or increase the amount of time you spend in your present practice. Learning simple mindfulness meditation and practicing it regularly has been shown to be an effective stress-buster.
- If you choose to begin a fitness regimen, start slowly and commit to participate in an activity you like to do. Decide whether you prefer to exercise alone or with a group, indoors or outside and what kinds of activities you look forward to doing. It’s easier to start slowly and increase an activity you enjoy than continue with a strenuous activity you dislike.
Some suggestions for green resolutions to benefit yourself and others include:
- When purchasing food and other household items, choose organic products when possible and patronize local suppliers.
- Make a conscious choice to eat less meat and more vegetables.
- Eliminate the use of phantom power in your home. Unplug electronics, charger cords and small appliances when they are not in use.
- Conserve water. Awareness that water is becoming a scarce commodity in many parts of the world, including developed nations, is all that is necessary for you to find ways to conserve it.
- Take your own, re-usable bags to stores when you shop. Launder them regularly.
- Replace paper towels in the kitchen with cloth ones. Wash cloth kitchen towels and re-usable grocery bags in biodegradable detergent with a half cup of distilled vinegar.
- Stop idling. When driving, don’t leave your vehicle engine running while the vehicle is parked. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, idling vehicles produce 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. If you make and keep only this resolution, you will keep the air cleaner, help prevent global warming and save money and fuel. Contrary to popular belief, today’s vehicles are not harmed by frequent engine starts, and idling costs you roughly 1/5 of a gallon of fuel per hour, wasting irreplaceable fossil resources as well. Some states have passed laws to ticket drivers who allow their vehicles to idle, while others are in the process of taking steps to ban the practice. To find out what one state is doing about the problem go to:http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/tsb/tps/msp/irc/categories/overview.htm
Some suggestions for guided imagery to help you keep your kinder, gentler and green resolutions include:
- Affirmations, by Belleruth Naparstek
- Healthful Sleep, by Belleruth Naparstek
- The Yoga of Sleep, by Ruben Naiman, PhD
- Bite by Bite, by Geneen Roth
- Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield
- Step-by-Step Tai Chi, with Tiffany Chen
- Mindful Movements, by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Healing Our Planet, by Emmett Miller, MD
- Healing Waters, by Joe Lindsay
- Healing Circle, by Lynne Newman
As always, we love hearing from you, and we would love to hear your suggestions for resolutions to make 2014 our kindest, gentlest and greenest year ever!
Happy New Year from Health Journeys!