A new year can feel like it offers up fresh starts, new beginnings, and opportunities to do things differently. I found myself wondering how long the tradition of proclaiming resolutions has been around. I did a little reading and found that Wikipedia had some interesting notes about the topic. “A New Year’s resolution is a secular tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.”
While resolutions may appear to be a secular concept Wikipedia also offered some of the religious origins of this practice. “The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. 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 their commitment to 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 over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility, in fact the practice of New Year’s resolutions partially came from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.”
This year I have noted many people, in lieu of sharing resolutions focused on improving oneself, (ie one of the common ones involves joining a gym, working out 7 days a week and losing weight) are instead choosing resolutions regarding doing things that makes one happier. Part of this shift is a movement away from the guilt that accompanies not following through on resolutions and they might be onto something. According to a “2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying ‘lose weight’), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.”
I have also noted a lot more people sharing how they have chosen a word for the year. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts has shared that her word for 2014 is trust. She shared this on Facebook: “My word for 2014 is trust. I’m gonna practice trusting my little heart out. Trust in others. Trust in new beginnings. Trust my voice. Trust the leaps, the falls, and the timing of it all. I can tell that 2014 is gonna be epic.”
Artist Pixie Campbell also wrote about selecting a word for each year on her blog. Her word this year is Mother and I encourage you to go visit her site and read more about this choice.
What is your word for this year? (I’ll share mine later.)
A great post to read about finding closure for 2013 as you embark upon 2014 is also by Kelly Rae Roberts. Pop on over to this blog post of hers and enjoy her always insightful musings. Here are the key questions she addresses to close out her year:
1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2013? (What did you create? What challenges did you face with courage and strength? What promises did you keep to yourself? What brave choices did you make? What are you proud of?)
2. What is there to grieve about 2013? (What was disappointing? What was scary? What was hard? What can you forgive yourself for?)
3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete? The next step is to say out loud, “I declare 2013 complete!” How do you feel? If you don’t feel quite right, there might be one more thing to say…
My hubby and I have a tradition for New Years Eve that involves us reading a letter we wrote for one another the year before. We also do two inspirational card readings. The first is with the Lakota Sweat Lodge cards that my husband has owned for many years. We then select from one of my decks of cards and do a second reading. This year we used a new deck called The Enchanted Map. We record our readings in the same journal each year that is reserved for this annual ritual. Here some photos showing two of the readings.
I haven’t really ever selected a word as part of my new year ceremony. This year however after reading the first posting by Rob Brezsny my word came to me. The recommendation for me was as follows: “Deep bronzes and smoky cinnamons and dark chocolates will be your lucky colors in 2014. Mellow mahoganies and resonant russets will work well for you, too. They will all be part of life’s conspiracy to get you to slow down, deepen your perspective, and slip into the sweetest groove ever. In this spirit, I urge you to nestle and cuddle and caress more than usual in the coming months. If you aren’t totally clear on where home is, either in the external world or inside your heart, devote yourself to finding it. Hone your emotional intelligence. Explore your roots. On a regular basis, remember your reasons for loving life. Stay in close touch with the sources that feed your wild soul.” (If you want to read yours click here.)
My word, as it came to me in that forecast, is Groove. The meaning for me has to do with release, flow, easing into, relaxing, movement, sensuality, letting go and breathing. Here is my creative expression with my word so that I can hang it up as a reminder through the year.
How does your word translate into art?
Could you dance it, sing it, write poetry about it, paint it, sculpt it, photograph it or plant it?