It's the same thing every year. The clock strikes midnight, a new year begins, and suddenly our lives are transformed overnight… Or at least, that's what a lot of us seem to hope will happen through the power of well-intentioned New Year's resolutions.
Personally, I have given up on making (and breaking) such resolutions, but I do recognise the value in setting manageable goals – and whilst these can be set any time, a new year can often seem like the ideal opportunity to make a new start.
It is no coincidence that many "challenges" take place in January, serving as a trial run that may lead to lasting lifestyle choices: Dry January (or Fondation Cancer's "Sober Buddy Challenge" in Luxembourg) and Veganuary are the main two that come to mind. I am not much of a drinker myself (honestly) but I do try to follow a primarily plant-based diet, so a couple of years ago, I took part in Veganuary.
For one month, I, along with countless others around the world, went (or at least tried to go) one month without using or consuming animal products. I found it relatively easy when cooking at home (plus my diet was already primarily plant-based), which was often the case since this was during lockdown, but more of a challenge if I wanted to eat out or order takeaway food. I would agree here with the statement of Barbara Ujlaki, President of the Vegan Society Luxembourg (VSL), in her recent Chronicle.lu interview, in which she observed that the number of vegan restaurants or restaurants offering vegan options is growing in Luxembourg but "there is still much room for improvement". Whilst Veganuary is more popular in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany (compared to Luxembourg; times like these make me miss the UK, where supermarkets and restaurants add so many new vegan products and dishes each year for Veganuary!), there is a wealth of useful online resources on websites such as veganuary.com, which can be accessed regardless of your location.
Fondation Cancer launched its "Sober Buddy Challenge" – the Luxembourg equivalent of the popular Dry January challenge – in 2021, and recently renewed this challenge for a third edition. Like Dry January, the idea is to abstain from drinking alcohol for one month, in this case with the support of a "buddy" (this can be a friend or a stranger, i.e. a fellow participant), and reap the health benefits. The first two editions proved successful, with more than 3,700 people having taken part, and an average of 92.5% of participants having reported willingness to repeat the challenge. More information is available at sober-buddy.lu.
Another potentially useful point of contact for people wishing to give up alcohol (at any time of the year) is Sober Socials Luxembourg, a local non-profit organisation set up in September 2022 to promote a sober lifestyle and bring together like-minded sober or "sober curious" individuals. After all, timed challenges can help spark change but most resolutions tend to apply (at least in theory) to a longer period of time.
Perhaps one of the most common New Year's resolutions is to get fit. Most of us will be familiar with the humorous images on social media of gyms being jam-packed at the start of January (although the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to affect membership numbers) and then showing them empty again shortly after. Personally, I decided to join a dance class, but I made the mistake (again) of pushing myself too hard right at the start and had to take a break after just a couple of weeks – I will be back though, since I paid for the classes… The main takeaway here is that going from sitting in front of a computer all day, with the odd dog walk to break up your mainly sedentary day, to dancing like Jennifer Lopez may not be realistic. Who knew? In any case, I believe I may have more luck committing to my goal of reading at least twelve books this year.
The move towards prioritising mental well-being in recent years has been a welcome one, in my opinion. An increasing number of people seem to be focusing on their mental health and not just their physical health, and this is reflected in their New Year's resolutions. This could mean taking up yoga and meditation or finally making that appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist (or a life coach), giving journalling a go or whatever else wellness might look like to different people.
Like anything, however, it is important to set small and achievable goals and to continue to prioritise our overall well-being and commit to what we want in life throughout the year – not just in January.