Breaking the New Years habit

I have learned an important lesson from my 24 years on earth: New Year’s resolutions are for chumps. It is more important to change one’s life incrementally than to change it in one fell swoop.

I am a big fan of celebrating the New Year’s holiday. For one thing, it’s my sister’s birthday, which means free food, margaritas and time with my family. For another thing, it’s a good time to contemplate the year’s hits and misses.

This reflection sometimes gets caught in our culture’s way of easy answers and fast results by way of the New Year’s resolution. Most New Year’s resolutions are pretty standard: losing weight, saving money, etc. It seems simple to keep them – until Jan. 2 rolls around, when there is still leftover ham from Christmas and half-price New Year’s sales going on around town. How can you keep a resolution with all these temptations?

It’s silly to think that lifestyle changes are possible when they are made in the midst of the biggest drinking night of the year. It is a pleasant idea, but implausible to execute. I can’t remember anyone who lost weight or saved money because they made a New Year’s resolution. Of course, beer and alcoholic drinks are costly and fattening, so most of the resolutions can be broken right when they are made.

The popularity of the resolution seems to be a thing of the past. According to a study published by Welch Media, less than 50 percent of people in the U.S. are making these controversial drunken pledges at midnight. Last year, the rate was 88 percent. Most of these goals are related to money, weight, or relationships. This doesn’t seem like the kind of goal to make haphazardly.

I spent two weeks with my family during the winter break. My mother said that her New Year’s resolution was the same as every year: to be more organized. If you have to make the same resolution year after year, it is counterproductive to the purpose and a complete waste of time. Organization takes time and requires ongoing management. Of course, I could just be critical because I am an unapologetic pack rat who has collections of vinyl records, notebooks from the sixth grade and cassette tapes for sentimental value. (My favorite word is “nostalgia.”) Then again, I have never made a New Year’s resolution to clean out my closet.

We should make an ongoing promise to ourselves to be better people year-round, instead of at the beginning of the year. This way, our lifestyles aren’t compromised by one night of heavy partying, a few holidays of heavy eating, or a couple weekends of heavy shopping.

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, we should value gradual changes and minor events instead of looking for a quick fix. It is important to make promises that can last a long time, not just one week. We should implement an ongoing healthy and fulfilling lifestyle instead of scrambling to fix our lives at 11:50 p.m. on Dec. 31. Be a rebel: start a diet on Feb. 1, open a savings account in October, or buy a filing cabinet in April. This way, the headache on Jan. 1 is just from a night of heavy spirits, not from letting yourself down.