The New Year is here and if you’re like me, you’re ready to tape up the box on 2021 and move straight into a bigger and better 2022! Did you make a resolution or promise to yourself to enforce a positive change somehow?
Turns out, we’ve been ringing in the New Year and making resolutions since the ancient Babylonians began holding celebrations 4,000 years ago! The celebrations were held in Mid-March and lasted 12 days. They used it as a time to crown a new king or reaffirm their loyalty to the reigning king. They made promises/resolutions to pay debts and return anything they had borrowed. The Romans moved the celebration to January 1 around 46 B.C. The New Year was named for Janus, the two-faced god who was said to inhabit doorways and arches, able to see both backwards into the previous year, and ahead into the future. In 1740, the English clergyman, John Wesley established the watch night services which are still held today. The services are conducted on New Year’s Eve with time spent praying and making resolutions for the upcoming New Year.
Did you know that 45% of us make resolutions, but only 8% keep them? If you’re part of the 37% who mean well, you’re in great company! I tried for years to keep my resolutions—legitimately tried. January 1, resolution made. February 1, I was full of self-loathing over my failures. I decided I needed to set my goals to something useful, attainable, and reward myself every time I succeeded, but not fret over any slip-ups. That year (15+ years ago) I resolved to always change the empty toilet paper roll as soon as I noticed it. I was so diligent, that I expanded to changing them at work, family and friends’ houses, travel rest stops, restaurants … I knew I’d slayed the resolution dragon when I found myself changing the toilet paper roll on an airline flight. Oh, yes, I did!
Last year, my resolution was to make my physical and mental health a priority. I didn’t commit to losing weight or exercising more. I committed to slowing down, simply sleeping when I was tired, eating when I was hungry while being mindful of the quality of foods, and giving myself permission to do something fun at least once each week. Lemme tell ya, a resolution to sleep more, eat, and play is one I didn’t have any trouble keeping!
For 2022, my resolution is to continue learning. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of learning; not just formal education, but new ideas, new technology, and new skills. Recently, though, I found myself resisting learning the features of my new, Wi Fi enabled stove. I mean, who needs a stove you can operate from your smart phone? I dreaded reading the manual and setting it up, so much so that I put it off 5 months—cheating myself out of some pretty cool features! The resistance I experienced is a common symptom of aging and can be reversed by embracing “Lifelong Learning.”
Lifelong learning is focused on personal development. It isn’t just formal learning from an institution, although it can be. It is informal, as well. Lifelong learning is voluntary, with the purpose of achieving a level of personal gratification or fulfillment. It doesn’t always cost money. It can be self-taught, or a class we take. When we were children, we learned to play sports, games, ride bikes, and we were gratified when we mastered those skills. As adults, we have learned to use smartphones, cook new foods, and master specific crafts. We may even have taken formal courses that interested us just for fun; for example, art, computer, or foreign language classes.
The beauty of it is that while we’re learning, we’re also improving our health! We are sharing experiences with all backgrounds, reducing stress, and increasing our brain’s ability to adapt to change. We are delaying memory loss and cognitive decline, as well as increasing our overall confidence. Let’s face it, very few of us really want to figure out a new cell phone, or program a new TV, or HVAC thermostat, but when we do—when we actually master it—we want to announce it to everyone as they toss imaginary confetti our way! Continued learning increases our problem-solving skills, enhances our decision-making, and if we take classes with others, builds social connections, which we know helps us to live happier and longer.
Your local senior center can connect you with an array of no-cost, or low-cost classes that may interest you. The county Extension Office, adult education programs, healthcare facilities, churches, and local colleges and universities offer classes that are fun, free, and designed with seniors in mind! Transportation an issue? No problem! Give your senior center a call for a list of providers—some at no cost! Don’t want to leave your home? YouTube.com, as well as many other online resources, can be a treasure trove of information! My dad recently took up the hobby of making his own fishing rods. He found the best painting techniques and tips on parts and tools he needed by watching YouTube videos. Everything we try and teach ourselves raises our spirits and can help us develop our natural abilities! It can even lead to a new, post-retirement career!
Still not your gig? Try taking an online museum tour (the Smithsonian Museums offer some wonderful ones), listening to a podcast, or watching some documentaries on television. If you want to do this, but need assistance with your technology, ask a family member, friend, or reach out to your church, local volunteer network, public library, or senior center.
Before I forget it, though, let’s stop and toss ourselves some confetti for everything we’ve learned so far! This past year alone, we’ve learned how to shop for groceries online, attend online church services, use meeting software for work, and visit friends and family in the same format. We, along with our teachers, kids, and grandkids have learned how to instruct and attend school virtually. We’ve done some heavy-hitting learning and deserve to celebrate ourselves!
Commit to a healthier you as you age by doing something fun for yourself. You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home. Take that class. Watch that video. Play that game on your smartphone. Say yes to something new, and celebrate yourself!
In the words of Henry Ford: “Anyone who stops learning is old. Whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”