New year resolutions and all that jazz

By Dishanthi Jayathilleke

The dawning of a new year always brings with it the hope of rejuvenation of self. Hope that the chrysalis of last year will burst and a new being emerge to dazzle the new year. On the 31st I await in anticipation for 12 midnight to experience this wondrous change. This feeling lasts the whole year (rarely ), until the end of the first week (sometimes), until the first hour after waking up the next day (usually).

What’s so fascinating about the new year is the anticipation, of a better world, a better self, a better future. It’s akin to the expectation created by those glossy magazines advertising the latest skin cream that promises to make you look ten years younger. They have never worked, but that has never stopped me from buying them. You can only hope you see.

What is more interesting is the fact that apparently our brain prefers to scan, register, and recall unpleasant experiences rather than those favourable to us. What that mean is that you would readily recall with guilt, the time you jumped the queue at the supermarket on Christmas day but forget the day you let that other car pull over in front of you in the traffic jam. As per Dr. Hanson and Dr. Mendius in their fascinating book “ Buddha’s Brain”, the brain is Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. As the brain keeps on processing those negative moments rather than the positive ones, the background feeling of what it feels like to be you can become undeservedly glum and pessimistic. Thus leading I surmise, to our fascination with the New Year Resolution where we seek to cleanse and improve ourselves from this negative image.

The good doctors further elucidate why it’s necessary that we make an active effort to take in the good versus the bad . Apparently, focusing on what is wholesome increases the positive emotions flowing through our minds resulting in among others, a stronger immune system and a cardiovascular system that can handle stress. Also I guess generating less stress overall.

I suspect that we all knew in the back of our mind that we are not all that bad. Now we have scientists confirming that and also advising us that we should focus on our good experiences because it is good for us. So my new year resolution for 2011 is to resolutely read every news item in a positive way. Oh the price of coconuts going up? Why, that’ s just the encouragement I need to use less of it and bring down that cholesterol. Ditto for eggs. At the end of 2011 after a year of being positive and cheery, I could be feeling very pleased with myself but maybe a tad lonesome !

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