New Year’s resolutions have been around since the early 19th century, and likely as early as the 17th. A Boston newspaper in 1813 is reported to be the first to have coined the phrase, as the practice people used to justify their bad behavior before the New Year arrived. There is even some historical information available that suggests that the ancient Babylonians, some 4000 years ago, were making those New Year promises. Evidently those Babylonians would resolve to return borrowed farm equipment. In later times, medieval knights would confirm their commitment to chivalry.
Resolutions these days are often worded negatively, focused on the behaviors we all feel need correcting. As if we, as humans, need specific corrections at the beginning of a new year to be the people we want to be.
Perhaps looking at the situations in our lives in a positive light, with kindness toward ourselves is a better choice. Rather than quitting a habit, put it in the framework of the positive outcome, with concrete steps and achievable goals. The vast number of people at gyms on January 2nd and the decrease in attendance by January 31st is a good indication of the success of creating unnecessary stress on yourself. For example, if you haven’t been exercising at all, rather than deciding to go to the gym for an hour every day, look at incorporating ten-minute periods of movement into your day, then gradually increase the time.
Maybe, rather than being punitive, as they often are, resolutions can be promises. A promise to live kindness. A promise to take a deep breath and stay in the moment. A commitment to love one another and love oneself in a way that allows steps toward positive change.
All of us have things and situations we might want to leave behind with the start of a new year. The Irish have a tradition on New Year’s Eve – at the stroke of midnight they open the doors and windows, letting the old year out and the new one in. Though it is past New Year’s Eve now, the concept can be the same. What can we let go of through our own spiritual doors and windows? What can we bring in?
Each new day, each new moment brings the possibility for change. Resolve to bring kindness to each one.