Keeping resolutions — or at least trying | NevadaAppeal.com

Keeping resolutions — or at least trying

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New Year's Resolutions are due and I'm curious about them these days. Following is what I found around the Internet, edited for space. Incidentally, I've made no resolutions except to get more time skiing around Tahoe.

The idea of making self-improvement resolutions dates back to the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods they would return each new year borrowed objects and pay off debts. It's been going on ever since. It's a secular tradition, commoner in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern.

The resolution maker promises to do acts of self-improvement in the new year.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm chivalry. At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions.

There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic Lent.

At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year's resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40 percent did.

Recommended Stories For You

Here are some of the more popular goals included in resolutions:

Improve physical well-being: eat healthy food, lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails, get rid of old bad habits

Improve mental well-being: think positive, laugh more often, enjoy life

Improve finances: get out of debt, save money, make small investments

Improve career: perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business

Improve education: get better grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music), study often, read more books, improve talents

Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent, perhaps watch less television, play fewer sitting-down video games

Take a trip to someplace new

Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity, volunteer to work part-time in a charity organization

Get along better with people, improve social skills, enhance social intelligence

Make new friends and look up old ones largely forgotten

Spend quality time with family members, especially grandchildren

Settle down, get engaged/get married, have kids

Try foreign foods, discover new cultures

Pray more, be closer to God, be more spiritual

Be more involved in sports or different activities

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people found 88 percent of those who set New Year resolutions fail despite 52 percent of the study's participants were confident of success. Men achieved goals 22 percent more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small goals are being set like a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10 percent more when they made their goals public and got support from friends. While most of us seem to fail to live up to our resolutions there's some value to at least realize our faults and maybe trying to correct them. New Year's Customs in other countries:

Last year Travel + Leisure magazine came up with some places with interesting New Year's traditions. Here's a brief look at their top 10.

SPAIN

At midnight, it's customary to quickly eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke of the clock. Each one signifies good luck for one month of the coming year.

FINLAND

Folks predict their fortunes for the coming year by casting molten into a container of water and interpreting the shape the metal takes after it hardens. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ship signifies travel. A pig means lots of good food.

JAPAN

Since 1951, it's shown a TV music show called Kohaku Uta Gassen, which means "Red and White Song Battle" and features celebrity music stars in sing-offs, where audience votes whether the white team (men) or red team (women) win. Paul Simon and Cyndi Lauper apparently have participated.

BELARUS

Unmarried women play games to predict who will get hitched in the new year. In one game a pile of corn is put in front of each woman and a rooster is let loose. Whatever pile he approaches first shows which woman will be the first to marry.

PHILIPPINES

Round shapes, which represent coins, symbolize prosperity. There are heaps of round fruits on dining tables. Some folks eat precisely a dozen fruits at midnight. Polka dots also are thought to bring good luck, being round and all, and are quite prominent.

DENMARK

People stand on chairs and jump off them at the same at midnight to banish good spirits and bring good luck.

SCOTLAND

On what they call Hogmanay, the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the new year should bring a gift for good luck. In the village of Stonehaven, folks parade around while swinging giant fireballs on poles.

PANAMA

Effigies of well-known people — called munecos — are burned in new year's bonfires. The effigies represent the old year and burning them drives away evil spirits.

ESTONIA

People used to try to eat seven times on New Year's Day to ensure there would be abundant food, which seems counterproductive. Nowadays, it's a Euro party capital and folks gorge on alcohol instead.

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Folks wear special underwear in places like Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Red means love; yellow means money.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.