P HAS BEEN teasing me about writing my New Year’s Resolutions in mid-February, but that was before I told him about all the messages I’d received from you asking after them. It’s so nice how much you love these yearly lists, and to be honest, wasn’t sure was even going to do one this year, as so far, this new year has been particularly difficult to define. But I hope that in some small way these thoughts help you with your thoughts and goals this year, whatever they may be. This list includes the most important things that I’d like to work on⏤sound, rational thoughts and ideas based on logic and many hours of reading and thinking and I hope, should I be able to accomplish them, will have a very positive impact on the year ahead…
To do more good
I try my best to be a good human⏤to treat others with respect and kindness; to give all people the benefit of the doubt; to reduce, reuse, recycle, and take care of the planet as best as I can. In high school, I helped found an environmental society that held regular clean-ups on the weekends and have done volunteer work with the elderly. But in recent years, while I’ve supported various charities, I haven’t made time for any more volunteer work, and so this year, I think a good resolution is to find time to do more good in the world. I’ve been looking into something called effective altruism, both a philosophy and a community that is focused on maximising the good you can do through your career, projects, and donations. Its purpose is to find the best ways to help others and put them into practice. They offer great volunteering ideas, high-impact causes to support, and even suggest ways to start your own non-profit. There are many different ways to make a difference in the world, and right now is as good a time as there ever will be to start. It’s been said that what you do for yourself dies with you, but what you do for others lives forever.
To free up mental space
One of P’s resolutions this year is to cut out internet news―that is, online papers and websites that create divisive content with headlines that are more clickbait than real news. It’s good to be informed, but being exposed to a constant barrage of spins and non-news to provoke feelings of anger in order to promote engagement can be unhealthy. Research has shown that fake news travels six times faster than legitimate information on social media—in large part because of its ability to trigger a strong emotional response (Wired). Having to navigate content that deliberately aims to sustain fear and dissent adds to our cognitive and emotional burden, and the 24/7 news (and fake news) cycle can take a heavy toll on our collective psyche. So for my third resolution, I am severely reducing the amount of internet news I consume to free up mental space for better, more important things, like coming up brilliant new business and creative ideas; or finally starting that novel or screenplay; or coming up with new things to do and new places to visit; or just to daydream.
To develop a new hobby or interest
While I enjoy photography and I love to read, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken the time to develop a new hobby or interest. P started creating digital music two years ago, during lockdown, and recently began an online sketching course using markers and pens, and plans to do one drawing every day to see how his work improves. Remember last year, when I told you that I was planning on taking up chess? Well I got as far as buying the chess board and a few books and that’s about it. My past hobbies included knitting (I made mostly chunky cream-coloured scarves and a crimson cushion cover once) and I took a pottery course one winter, but never kept either of those up. So this year might be a good time to start something new, something that I’ve never tried before.
To buy less of the same things
The actual resolution may be to not buy anymore of the same things, but I’ve expanded it to drastically cutting back on shopping in general. Today, (March 11, 2022) marks the two year anniversary of the date that the World Health Organisation declared that the COVID-19 outbreak was a pandemic, and during the past two years while in lockdown, I went on a bit of a spending spree⏤out of stress, out of sadness, and sometimes boredom from being shut away from the world for so long. Now that things have opened up again (despite the new soaring number of cases), regret some of these purchases and have decided to shop a lot less in general, but especially for products that do the same thing⏤at least until most of the old products have been used. For instance, I have six different types of sunscreen and we live in England. Granted, you’re supposed to wear sunscreen everyday, even when it’s cloudy, but I’d bought most of these when we weren’t even able to leave the house. In my defence, a couple of them block out blue light, which is useful for all that screen time indoors, but that’s most likely not the point. So far, I’ve had storage units in three different countries around the world, so less shopping means less things, and with my track record, less things in storage on our next move.
Work on my mental fitness
I basically have my physical fitness under control, with 5 hours of cardio and 1 1/2 hours of weight training a week. It would have been one of my past New Year’s resolutions at one point perhaps three (or even four) years ago. While I may work out every day now, I don’t always remember to take care of my mental fitness. You’ve probably heard it said that health involves more than not being sick. Well similarly, mental fitness involves more than the absence of mental illness. Mental fitness is something that you can take time to build, just as you would your physical strength and fitness. Taking care of your well-being is equally (if not more) important, and activities such as reading and learning something new can help. This year, I want to spend more time looking after my mental fitness by being proactive about managing burnout and giving my brain more time to rest. The last point is especially important because while it may sound counterintuitive, taking time away from your work can actually make you more productive.