I don't know about you, but I have been making the same New Year's resolutions for the past decade. Every other year I throw in something different just to shake things up -- lose ten pounds instead of five -- but in general, as long as I have been making empty promises to myself, they have been the same ones.
Maybe you are like me and on January 2 you go on a tear, ridding your home of all white carbs, dumping out bottles of vodka, doing 50 sit-ups in a row, ordering a set of classic novels that you aim to read or cleaning out your car. (You can't do this on January 1 because you are too hung over and will need an enormously greasy breakfast and Bloody Mary.) And maybe sometime toward the end of the month you are invited out for a drink, just one, you think, and five wines later and a plate of cheese fries, you've blown the whole thing and figure why bother anymore; your car is a mess and you hate running. Sound familiar?
This year, rather than making unrealistic and very specific goals (throw out all clothing that has not been worn in more than two years unless I really, honestly think I'll be able to fit into it again after I drop five inches off of my thighs), I've come up with three resolutions that are completely doable and universal for everyone.
Be Nicer The word "hater" has been a part of the English vernacular for ages, showing up in multiple classical texts, but in the past few years the word has taken on new meaning and a new life. Our society has become a conglomeration of "haters," and the Internet's ability to shield our true identities is the culprit. Spend an hour clicking through comment sections on websites and you'll find nothing but negativity and anger. It's sort of scary. When did we all get so peeved at each other?
In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology this year, psychologists Justin Hepler and Dolores Albarracin looked at the correlation between people who already hold very negative attitudes in life and how they react to new stimuli. Guess what they found out? Haters really are gonna hate. What a horrible way to live.
Whatever happened to that old saying that your grandmother taught you: If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all? Where'd that all go? Remember the golden rule? Do unto others or whatever. We're living in a society here!
Of course, people are going to make you angry. Example: that lady who completely cut me in line the other day at Walgreens when I was trying to pick up a box of Christmas cards that were already way too late to mail out. My initial thought was to punch her, but she was old and I am afraid of physical confrontation. My second thought was to say something like, "Hey, asshole, I'm standing here." My final thought was, "Ehh, it's the holidays and she's obviously oblivious or blind; I'll just let it go." I did. And I felt like a better person for it.
It is not difficult to be a nicer person; it just takes more effort than does being a dick, which is why we tend to prefer the latter. The next time someone writes a Facebook post that makes you wish you were Robert Oppenheimer and had access to mini-bombs, take a deep breath and move on.
Be happier? Oh sure, much easier said than done, especially considering that we have become a very sad nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9 percent of American adults suffer from some sort of depression. And our collective blues has been on the rise. Research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that major depression rates for American adults increased from 3.33 percent to 7.06 percent from 1991 through 2002." How depressing is that?
For many it's an illness that needs medical attention and treatment, but for some of us, we're just kind of sad a lot of the time and it's difficult to put your finger on why. Like most of us, I have had my bouts of depression over the years, and the only thing that ever made me feel happier was making a point to try to feel happier.
How you make yourself happier is completely subjective. Go for a walk. Watch a funny movie. Do something creative. Just getting out of bed might do it for you. Whatever it is that puts a smile on your face, try to do it, rather than doing the things that make you feel worse.
Don't forget the other saying your grandmother used to annoy you with: "It takes more muscles to frown than to smile." And as of yet, Snopes has not disproven this. Be Smarter
In addition to being nastier and sadder, we have also become a nation of dummies. Earlier this year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)released a finding
of adults' math, literacy and computer skills from 21 different countries. The United States came in No. 13 in literacy, No. 19 in mathematical skills and 15 in technology problem solving. We're not even that good at using the digital equipment that we dedicate most of our brainpower to.
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This is just one example of a trend in stupidity seen across this country. What is going on here? Maybe the fact that a 2012 Pew Research Center poll found that a fifth of Americans said they hadn't picked up one book that entire year. That is 18 percent of our country that admittedly doesn't read, which means that the actual number is probably higher because who wants to say that out loud? It probably doesn't help that 21 percent of the adult population can only read at a fifth-grade level.
Obviously, if you are reading this, you're doing better than the 21 percent, but that doesn't mean we aren't offenders in our own path to stupidity. I know that I am. I consider myself a fairly active reader and thinker, and I can't even tell you how many times I've opted to watch an episode of 30 Rock that I have already seen 30 times over picking up a book. I don't feel guilty about it, and neither should you, but making a conscious choice to be a little bit smarter this year is neither a difficult one nor something that's going to kill anyone.
How can you be smarter? It's the same as being happier and nicer; just give it a try. Don't know a word that you just read? Look it up. Can't spell "restaurant" (it's taken me years!) without spell check? Practice writing it over and over again. Play a trivia game on your PlayStation instead of Grand Theft Auto. Whatever you think will get your brain buzzing, do that.
I know these resolutions seem fairly obvious, and maybe you want to tell me to go shove them up my ass, but, hey, that would be so 2013 of you. At least tell me to shove them up my nice ass; that's a smarter, more pleasant thing to say.