Discovering Dryden: It’s that time! New Year’s resolutions!


Janus is the Roman god of beginnings. He is a god of transitions. He is often depicted as a god with two faces, one looking forward into the future, one to the past. Appropriately, the Romans named the month of January, a time in which many people pause to look back and plan forward, in dedication to Janus.

The New Year’s resolution, a tradition most associated with the western hemisphere, can be traced all the way back to the Babylonians who lived some 4,000 years ago. Babylonians made commitments to their gods at the beginning of each of their years, promises usually involving debt. To the god Janus, as we learned about earlier, the Romans offered sacrifices and made promises of a behavioral and moral nature. Between roughly the fifth and 15th century, in medieval Europe, knights would take the “peacock vow” around new years annually. This commitment was made to honor and renew the vow of chivalry taken by knights. For early Christians, the first day of the new year became a time for meditation. One might think of their previous years’ mistakes and resolve how to do better. Then in the 1700s, the Covenant Renewal Service was created by the Englishman, and founder of Methodism, cleric and theologian John Wesley. This service has become more commonly known as watch night services, where followers of the Christian faith come together, pray, and make resolutions for the new year. The tradition of resolution making, of taking an introspective look over our past and future years, has permeated the western hemisphere, and much of the globe, regardless of cultural or religious base.

According to the American Medical Association, roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans made New Year’s Resolutions in 1995, a steep increase from years prior. Today, the custom holds fast, now an institution in many households. That being said, read on for some suggestions for resolutions you can take into your new year, as well as some tips for sticking to them.

Interestingly, various studies suggest that those who make New Year’s Resolutions to meet goals are more likely to meet said goals than if made at any other time of the year!

Some very common New Years Resolutions include:

  • Become physically healthier. Goals in this arena could include eating healthier food, to lose a few pounds, to take up a new active hobby, to vow to walk to the end of the block daily, to drink less alcohol, to drink more water, to smoke less, or to move more.
  • Rid yourself of a specific bad habit. Smoking? Nail Biting? Snacking? Oversleeping? You name it!
  • Improve your mental state. Such a goal may be met by meditation, practicing gratitude in our daily lives, laughing more often, doing more things we enjoy, and/or seeking the positive in difficult situations and people.
  • Financial goals. Perhaps you have a debt that’s been burdening you. Could you pay it off this year? How about just a part of it? You could resolve to save more money, to invest, or to earn that promotion you so deserve.
  • Learn. If you’re a student, could you improve your grades in that tricky math class? Perhaps you’ve been thinking of returning to school? Learn something new like a craft, hobby, language, or instrument. Read more books. Subscribe to a magazine about something you like. Join a club for your specific interest (singing, painting, knitting, bird watching). Perhaps you can expand your mind simply by opening yourself up to understanding someone with a perspective at odds with yours.
  • Take a trip. Whether you’re filled with wanderlust or prefer the view from your front porch, a change of scenery can benefit anyone. Perhaps you can set a goal to finally book that trip to Egypt. Perhaps you can set a goal to visit the natural wonders and museums right here in our backyard in Tompkins County.
  • Volunteer. Having a gracious heart is one of the surest ways to feel a sense of abundance. Perhaps you can give more time or money to a cause or charity you support. Maybe your goal will be to tithe 10 percent consistently to your church.
  • Family, friends, and relationships. Goals around relationships could be to spend more quality time with people you love, be it family or friends. Perhaps you want to create a new family tradition as a way to connect with your kids or grandkids. Perhaps settling down, getting engaged, married, or even ending a relationship is on your radar in the new year.
  • Spiritual life. Perhaps you feel that you need more prayer in your life. More meditation? More socializing and support in your spiritual walk?
  • Spend less time on social media. Spending less time on social media is, without a doubt, one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. Goals to achieve this might include calling people instead of text messaging them. Send a birthday card in the real mail! Or you could go totally wild, and set up a visit, drop in, and have a conversation face-to-face.

Now the tricky part: How do we keep our resolutions?

Keep it simple. Do not choose every goal listed above. Choose one or two goals that are simple and meaningful to you.

Be specific. You want to save- how much? You want to learn- what do you want to learn? You’re going to pry yourself away from social media- plan it. Perhaps you’ll schedule phone-free places or times. Perhaps you’ll pencil in your planner that it’s Mom’s birthday enough in advance that you have time to go buy that card.

Find support or an accountability partner. No one can go it alone. When you decide on your goal(s), tell a friend or family member. If you both have New Year’s resolutions, you can provide support, encouragement, and accountability for each other.

Best of luck in your new endeavors. Happy New Year!


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