In my opinion, the world is populated by two kinds of persons: those who make New Year’s resolutions and those who do not.  My views are based on no scientific studies of any reliability, but on 87 years of observation.  Of course, during the first few years of my existence my source of peer consultants consisted of two imaginary friends, Winnie and Arthur.  Winnie was older, and bossy, Arthur was younger and always did what he was told.  However, they vanished when I started school, no doubt called elsewhere to continue their imaginary exploits.  This means I have only 81 years of personal experience.  (There was no kindergarten at Ahuntsic School in those days, which accounts for my delayed education, which only started in Grade One.)

Why do people make New Year’s Resolutions?

  1. Because everybody’s doing it. This is not a good reason.  Remember your parent’s admonition way back in your teen years?  Whaddya mean everybody’s doing it?  Would you jump off a cliff just because…..?
  2. You want to improve yourself. This leads to another question:  Do you really need to be better?  And if so, better what?  Before you can take on the task, you will have to define it.  This could take at least 365 days of consultation.  So, if you start on January 1st, 2016, you don’t need to begin the make-over until January 1, 2017, with the bonus of an extra day, as 2016 is a leap year.  Leap years occur every four years, but not always on century years.  Because the year is slightly less than 365.25 days, when you add an extra day every four years you wind up with three more days added over 400 years.  This means that only one in every four century years is a leap year – evenly divisible by 400.    As most of us were here in 2000, we probably won’t ever have to figure this out again.  We have Julius Caesar to blame – or thank – for originating leap year, in 45 BC.  Originally the Romans added a month of 22 or 23 days every two years to the 355 day calendar, so festivals would occur around the same time every year.  Julius found this so confusing he decided to add a day to February every fourth year.  And in 1582 Pope Gregory simplified it (a touch) so that leap year would only happen in a year divisible by four.   And we are now blessed with the Gregorian Calendar.

Actually, people have been celebrating the start of a new year since around 4,000 B.C., beginning with the Babylonians who celebrated in March, when the harvest was done.  The Romans continued the tradition, and every March members of the Roman Senate would declare that they had done their duty as lawmakers, and the new Senators were sworn in.  The Roman legions were also required to swear allegiance to the Emperor, and as the Roman Empire expanded, the New Year was pushed back to January 1st, to enable the generals to get there on time, and back to prepare for spring battles.  After the official ceremonies in the morning, the fun would begin.  My researches did not discover any Roman remedies for hangovers.  Quite possibly they did not require any, as my sources revealed that they watered the wine, and never drank it straight.

Various religions and cultures have set aside certain periods for contemplation, reviewing of misdeeds, and declarations to do better, but when the idea of New Year’s Resolutions began, I have no idea.  Perhaps it was in 1740 when the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, came up with a new idea for church services: Covenant Renewal Services, held during the Christmas to New Year’s period, in order to counteract what was in his opinion, too much celebratory partying.    Still, January 1st. has become – for the most part – a secular holiday.   This means that resolutions are usually more personal, and we can hardly expect any deity to get involved.  In other words, we’re on our own.

Examples:  I’m going to eat less, exercise more, spend less, save more.  Easy to define, not so easy to accomplish.  A CBS poll last year showed that 68% of Americans surveyed don’t even bother to make resolutions, and of the 30% that do only about half succeed.  I suspect Canadian statistics would be in the same ball park.  Of those Americans who’ve given up even attempting to make resolutions the largest cohort is those over 65.  This shows that with age comes wisdom.

However, if there are still a number of resolution advocates who want to lose weight, for example, but want to keep it simple, here is a suggestion.  Next time you decide to go the Mall, don’t drive.  Walk.  However, I realize that although losing a few pounds is a desirable outcome, an additional incentive is required.  You need something more.  So, here it is.

If you walk roughly two and-a-half miles, or about four kilometres at a moderate pace, you will have worked off around 250 calories.   The average calorie count for a chocolate glazed donut is – you guess it: 250 calories.  So, in order to enjoy your reward, and still fulfill your expectations, all you have to do is walk both ways.  And at the rate of losing half a pound for every 250 calories you burn, if you do that once a week for 52 weeks, you’ll lose 36 pounds.

Upon reflection, I’ve decided to join the aforementioned over 65ers, and not make any resolutions, whatsoever.  Even if I have to sacrifice the chocolate donut.