Life Times Newsletter

Winter 2009
Vol. 11, No. 1

Bringing in the New Year . . . or sticking with the old?


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Rosilee Trotta, MSW, LCSW
Urban Youth & Family Specialist

I came across a haiku poem the other day by Kobayashi Issa, Japanese poet and Buddhist priest, that made me think about the New Year. He may have come as close as anyone to capturing my thinking on the subject:

“New Year’s Day…everything is in blossom!  I feel about average.”

How many of us view the difference between the New Year and the Old Year as merely a day . . . or perhaps a glass of champagne? Does anything really change except the date? Most people I know fail to make a New Year resolution because they doubt they’ll keep it anyway. Unfortunately, I can put myself in this category most years.

Perhaps I’m missing something with my slovenly attitude. The end of a year really should be about looking at a behavior we weren’t pleased with in the past, and changing it. A small adjustment may be all that is necessary. A little tweaking could go a long way.

We might even get a little creative as we attempt to formulate our resolution. If better health is our goal, diet and exercise aren’t the only things we can work on . . . although I don’t want to discourage improvement in those areas. We might consider other healthy concepts, such as stress reduction; or increasing our number of sleep hours; or using humor instead of anger to resolve conflict. Pick one. We have a much better chance of success if we concentrate on only one area for improvement at a time.

Once we’ve selected our focal area, we should narrow it a bit. Proclaiming we will reduce stress is too broad for most of us to deal with effectively. We have to be more specific to make it work. Just how are we going to reduce stress?

This might differ for each of us. Personally, taking a walk is a stress reducer I might use. Even better is Fred Allen’s technique:  “I like long walks, especially when taken by folks who annoy me.” Works for me!

Walking, however, may be a stressor rather than a relaxer for some. They may prefer to sit quietly for 10 minutes and meditate, or surround themselves with candles in a hot bath, or sit in front of a fireplace with feet propped up, or curl up with a good book. The point is, each person must decide what reduces his or her stress.

The next looming decision is how frequently to incorporate the stress reduction technique of choice into real life. This will be dependent on your frazzle factor. Just how tense are you? How often do you require stress relief?

Once these decisions have been made, a specific New Year, or mid-year, or end-of-year resolution can be crafted. It should look something like this: I will walk 15 minutes each morning before breakfast. Short. Specific. To the point. Doable.

It is important to remember Nido Qubein’s statement: “ . . . nothing works unless you do.” That’s the hardest part. We have to get off the sofa and do something! We have to push our comfort zone over the edge and invest some energy into accomplishing what we’ve resolved to do.

The fireworks on New Year’s Eve signify a time of renewal. They remind us that we have an opportunity to rejuvenate, to reinvent, to improve. If they failed to motivate you at the beginning of 2009, it’s not too late to act. On reflection, if I’d been following my own advice and changed one behavior each year, by this age I’d be nearly perfect!






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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller