For some of us this is either an exciting or dreaded time of making New Year resolutions, a concept that has persisted through thousands of years of human history.
The tradition of setting intentions or making wrong things right goes all the way back to Babylonian times roughly 4,000 years ago. Back then New Year resolutions were promises to the gods to repay debts and return things that had been borrowed (as an agricultural society, this usually meant farm equipment!).
1. In early Rome, citizens would make sacrifices to the two-faced god Janus, the god of beginnings and ends, and promised to be good in the new year as they contemplated the past year and looked forward to a new one.
2. Knights in the Middle Ages would renew their vows to protect their kingdom by placing their hands on a peacock at the end of the year, known as the “Peacock Vow.”
3. Iroquois tribe members participate in several ceremonies during the Midwinter Ceremony including dancing, burning tobacco, and singing as they renew their responsibilities for the coming year.
4. Before the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival in China, families thoroughly clean their homes to symbolize sweeping out any bad luck from the past year as they prepare to welcome good luck for the new year.
5. As part of Hogmanay in Scotland, cleaning one’s home, clearing ashes from the fireplace, and settling debts are considered part of starting the new year on the right foot.
Today, many American resolutions tend to focus on exercise, healthier eating, and losing weight (with cutting back on social media slowly working its way up the list). Despite our good intentions of self and social improvement, only about 10% of us will make a habit of the changes we set out to make. Why? Well, setting new habits and sticking to them long-term is often harder than you think, but beyond that, perhaps we’re focused on the wrong things…
Before you let that disappointing 10% statistic halt your intention-setting before you even start, consider this question:
With that, we offer a type of resolution that perhaps you haven’t thought about before—one that isn’t focused on changing yourself, but is instead focused on enhancing your connection with others. Because whether you acknowledge it or not, you are inextricably connected to the ecosystems around you (from people, to plants, to wildlife, to fungi, bacteria, and more!). This simple truth is slowly being forgotten and it's the Pottawattamie Conservation team's goal to bring it back to life.
In today’s fast-moving world, we can forget the immense role that these seemingly “little” things play in our quality of life:
Go and inspect things that catch your eye, ask more questions, wonder why something works the way it does, research something that interests you, try new things, get outside your comfort zone!
Even if it feels silly sometimes, go smell that flower, feel that super soft-looking blanket, pause and listen to the birds chirping or the kids playing, close your eyes and let the sun warm your face, relish in the earthy smell of oncoming rain, take in the beauty of snowfall, push your body’s limits and appreciate its power.
In a world where convenience and comfort rule, challenge yourself to sometimes take the more difficult route to achieve your goal. It can be small, like starting a garden, or something bigger, like making significant changes to your lifestyle. You may find that while difficult to get started, it’s far more rewarding, a better use of your time and efforts, and feel more gratitude, too.
Oh, and come out and join us for your first hike of 2023!
Get a full year of free access to all Pottawattamie County parks.Become a member of the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation