By Annie Hayes-Allan: Columnist
A new year, a new venture. Across the world, January is a month to look back at the old year and forward to the new. The Roman God, Janus, with his two faces, received offerings from people for luck and prosperity in the new year. It is full of hope and promise, with people vowing to treat January as a fresh start.
Now the new year is well underway, how is it treating you? The days are lengthening, the cold strengthening, but how are the new Year’s resolutions working out? Personally, keeping up with them has been a struggle, though successful so far. Hopefully, others have had more luck.
Whatever one’s resolutions and goals for the new year might be, there are many different ways to approach them. Short term SMART goals,(Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed), are often applied to various aspects of life.
Other plans, whether weekly or monthly, can focus on specific blocks of time, dividing up, for example, an average word count, so that it is possible to work out how many hours a day, or week, it will take to finish a book, an article, or other non literary projects. A fitness schedule could have a goal like a charity marathon at the end of it, or personal target or ambition.
After the excitement of new year,- whether that was, in modern times, one of the first countries to see in the new year, like Kiribati, since 1995, at least, or the last, like American Samoa– it can be hard to find the motivation to continue. In Kiribati, there were church services, bell ringing and community feasting on traditional dishes, like roast pork, local fruits, and traditional drinks, such as Tepika, made from coconut sap.
The feasting and fireworks in American Samoa, are always a mixture of traditional and modern, with families sitting down to traditional roast pork, but with plenty of fireworks to welcome in the new year. This year was no exception. January has been found to have some of the highest rates of mental health issues of the year, according to surveys by MIND and Age UK. Depression and anxiety can make even the best of intentions for the new year falter. So, what can you do?
First, take stock. What is most likely to derail your plans? Being overwhelmed? In which case, is it possible to break those big goals into smaller steps, even short term ones? Can you involve others to help, or seek their advice?
For the lone worker, writing every possible solution down, even ones which are bizarre or funny, can give a different perspective on things. Indeed, it has been proven that regular laughter can help to beat depression, anxiety and even chronic pain.
Smiling helps- studies show happy faces cheer people up. Changing direction by going out for a walk, stroking a pet, reading a good book or catching up with a friend can help to reframe things.
Thinking of good times, or what inspired your project in the first place, can help you to rekindle the optimism of the first days of the year.
It is also worth remembering that some cultures and religions are yet to celebrate their new year, even if they joined in the celebrations on 1st January. Orthodox Christians, for example, celebrated on 14th January. This is often known as the the old new year, since it was the new year according to the Julian Calendar, the Gregorian Calendar’s predecessor.
Taking in the Traditional?
Some calendars, such as lunar and lunisolar calendars, like those used in China, Thailand, Vietnam, in Hinduism and in Judaism, or a lunar, cyclical calendar like Islam, marking the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, Yugadi or Ugadi, Rosh Hashanah and Hijiri respectively, mean that the exact dates alter from year to year, even if traditions such as prayer readings, symbolic gift giving, traditional food is eaten, and shared, with family or the wider community, traditional stories are retold, and in China, the symbolic Lion and Dragon dances, are passed down the generations. In Islam and Judaism, many use the period of new year for personal examination and spiritual growth, a time for forgiveness and family.
India, with its huge diversity of cultures and religions, celebrates not one, but many New Years’ dates throughout its regions. Some of the exact dates vary from year to year. The traditions vary too. From the six tastes of Ugadi Pachadi, symbolic of the emotions of life - Joy, Surprise, Sadness, Anger, Unpleasantness and Fear, the first dish offered at new year. the sweetness of jaggery, tang of raw , often unripe, mango, the bitterness of Neem, the spiciness of Black Pepper, the sourness of Tamarind and saltiness of natural salt. This dish has several variations which still represent the same life experiences in different parts of India.
You are not a failure if you don’t succeed the first time- simply see it as a challenge, learn from it, then use that new knowledge when creating a path to succeed.
So, with all the different New Years in this diverse world, there are multiple opportunities for new beginnings and self reflection.
You are not a failure if you don’t succeed the first time- simply see it as a challenge, learn from it, then use that new knowledge when creating a path to succeed. Simply trying something new or planning something small is a success in itself and the first step to bigger achievements. A new day is a new start- see what you can achieve in it.
Try and be grateful for those achievements, or the help you have given to, or received from, others. Making a record of things that you are grateful for each day helps to train the brain to look for the positives in life.
This year, many will have started a savings challenge, have started writing every day, including a gratitude diary and maybe hope to finish that book. For those stuck for ideas, attempting a daily random act of kindness, to help others- a work in progress reaps many benefits we could not imagine. What have you chosen? Good luck with your ventures and keep smiling!
Cover Photo: Lidya Nada, "Doubt" by Leelo thefirst, Party by Cottonbro Studio, Neon Photo by Samual Regan
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