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Weihnachtsmarkts, Aachen, Germany

Weihnachtsmarkts, Aachen, Germany

Pushover. Lazy. Fat. Work-obsessed. Undecided. Around New Years, a lot of people focus on what they think they have been doing wrong, and not the positive aspects of their lives. We tend to make ten thousand New Years resolutions and perhaps remember to take out the trash through mid-February, and then forget about them all again. In the past few weeks I’ve often heard, “In 2014 I will get two degrees, find love, lose a thousand pounds, make more friends, study more, read more, write more, enjoy life more, blah, blah,” the list being so long it exhausts me just thinking about completing it. I am the New Years resolution cynic—I never make them because I don’t want to set myself up for failure. I am afraid of resolutions, and I also give the stink eye to every person who steps into a gym for the sole period of January 1st through February 29th. I suppose I don’t believe in resolutions because they focus so much on the negative (“lose fifteen pounds”) rather than on the positive (“improve my posture” or “figure out what’s causing my joint pain.”)

I found this post on resolutions on the Barre3 blog, the ballet-inspired exercise program dedicated to mindfulness rather than high intensity body slamming or shaming. The author of the article emphasizes the concept of “letting go” rather than resolving, telling  of how she and her family burn pieces of paper at each new year—negative feelings that they will work on parting with for a fresh start. Now, that’s a new tradition I might actually enjoy! I’ve been known to burn my class notes at the end of undesirable courses, which always feels great, so why not also burn away my negative thoughts and/or actions? Here is a way to root out problems and make it easier to focus on solutions. Always crabby in the mornings? You burned that habit! Now, why don’t you work on getting to sleep earlier.

Don't worry, it's over the sink

Don’t worry, it’s over the sink

Many people set New Years resolutions without addressing the heart of the issue. Losing fifteen pounds through some crazy diet for a mere two weeks is bound to fail. It will just make you feel even more fat and lacking in restraint. New Years resolutions do, however, have the potential to be positive. If your resolution is to read more, what negative aspects of your life are preventing you from doing so? Does Facebook take up most of your lunch hour? Do you really have to watch four recorded TV shows every evening? Are you too tired to read because you never get enough sleep? Do you really want to lose fifteen pounds, or do you just want to stand up straighter or stop eating out of boredom? Addressing the true issues at hand—burning the negatives—will make your goals much simpler and enjoyable to attain.

I may have always been a bit hippy in my philosophy, but even Business Insider has a post on the subject of eliminating negative energy here. It lists eight things to “eliminate from your daily routine” and, though it focuses mostly on job-related negativity, like being too much of a yes-man, it also includes some gems that apply to everyone (noteably, having your phone attached to your hand.) If everyone eliminated these eight unhealthy habits from their lives, think of how much more time we’d have to focus on positive outcomes. I, for one, want to work less on Facebook and more here, where my thoughts tend to be more intellectual and less cat-video-based.

A few days after I committed myself to the burn-the-bad mindset (yes, I actually burned my negative scraps of paper, and it was quite liberating,) I discovered the philosophy of the Japanese psychologist Dr. Marsaru Emoto in, of all things, a French comedy. In Les Petits mouchoirs (Little White Lies in the English version, not translated directly nor properly, per usual,) there’s this thing a group of friends do with two jars of rice: every morning at breakfast, they say sweet things to the “good” jar, and scream insults and profanities at the “bad” jar. The movie cites Emoto for his experiment in which the “bad” jar actually went rotten because of all the negative energy. I’m adding this comedic relief to the conversation because 1) yelling at two jars of rice makes for a pretty funny scene and I want you all to see it, and 2) even if the rice does not spoil, the idea that negative energy can weigh down on you is pretty factual. So, even if you do not set up your own rice experiment or physically burn away your negative vibes from 2013, at least remember their impact. Changing your outlook on things can be extremely enlightening. I should know, because just four months ago I was extremely daunted by the challenge of working with a bunch of at-risk teenage boys in a language they absolutely refused to speak. Now, I love my kids. They’re a bunch of troublemakers, yes, but life would be so boring without them. They’re my good jar of rice.

Check out this hilarious scene from Les Petits mouchoirs (2010, Guillaume Canet). The name of the Youtube video in English is “Gilles Lellouche insults the bowl of rice.” Also, please read and respond to this post from a few days ago.