Making a New Year’s Resolution Through a New Lens

Refocusing on the positivity that a new year can bring.

You made it! After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s time to sit back, take a breath, and enjoy the dawn of a new year with all its opportunity for new beginnings, fundamental change, living your best life…

And then, it starts. Do you feel it? The self-questioning, the self-doubt, the self-criticism, the stress! Your head starts to spin with the flood of thoughts of all of the things that are “wrong” with your life followed by the list of things you need to do to “fix it”.

“Fix it”. Such small, powerful words. Of course, they imply that something is wrong, or worse broken. Or, more specifically, that there is something wrong with your life or worse yet, that you are broken! Ouch, that hurts. It makes sense, then, that the next thing that happens is a list begins to form in your head leading to the development of a more socially acceptable means of identifying what needs to change in your life. Your list of “to do’s” transforms into a list of New Year’s resolutions: Lose weight. Stop drinking. Cut out the drugs. Quit social media. Don’t be “that” person. Just be…better than you are.

Ah, New Year’s Resolutions, our modern-day annual festival of self-improvement that feels more like self-criticism. But, wait: A festival? That has a different sound to it. Let’s explore.

Celebrating the beginning of the new year emerged with the Babylonians approximately 4,000 years ago. Marking the beginning of the agricultural season in March, the 12-day spring festival of Akitu encompassed religious observances, rituals, and communal feasting. Also included in this celebration was the making of promises, or resolutions, to the gods, particularly the repaying of debts and the returning of borrowed items, in exchange for a favourable coming year. The Romans initially maintained the date 15 March, also known as the Ides of March, as the beginning of a new year. With the introduction of a new calendar in 45 B.C., Julius Caesar transitioned the first day of the new year to 1 January in recognition of the installation day of Rome’s highest statesmen. Regardless of the change in date, the positive intention of the day remained: families gathered, gifts were exchanged. The hope was that the positivity of this first day would be maintained throughout the coming year.

Let’s turn our attention back to today. With the history of a festival focused on positivity in mind, rather than generating numerous sweeping New Year’s resolutions that are meant to “fix” perceived wrongs in your life, slow down the train for a moment. In the quietness of this moment, to what extent can you offer yourself the room, the grace, to identify something you enjoy or find pleasurable that you would like to repeat: Walking your dog. Attending a religious service. The satisfaction of organizing your closet. Chatting with your neighbour. Playing with your child/grandchild. Volunteering your time to a community organization/project. Time laughing with a cherished friend.

Listen to your inner voice. Does it sound excited at the prospect of doing something that brings you joy? Pick one, just one. Now that’s a new year’s resolution worth working towards! Happy New Year!