It takes 30 days to form a habit. So here are 12 habit-forming resolutions in the New Year with overt or covert spiritual character. Start one each month, and keep the previous ones going. By year’s end, you’ll have to introduce yourself to yourself.
January: Get healthy. Losing weight or getting in shape is almost always first on resolution lists. Diets don’t work long term; smaller portions do. Your motto: Eat less, move more. Even if you know your going to live forever in heaven, earth could use you a little longer and a little stronger.
February: Nurture romance. Valentine’s month makes this a natural. Even if you’re single and uninvolved, you can perk up your romantic soul. Read poetry, try a cool new place in town, and take a risk by initiating or stepping up a relationship (women can initiate, too). Imagination can change routine into romance.
March: Reach out. Spring brings new hope. Meet a neighbor. Find a community ministry to volunteer in. Ask forgiveness of someone you hurt, or offer it back to someone who hurt you.
April: Pay dues. You’ll file income tax returns mid-month and likely pay Uncle Sam. Do it carefully and cheerfully. Consider what you get for what you pay: national security, social security and subsidies of many kinds that underwrite our generally peaceable way of life. While you’re at it, pay all your bills on time to help your neighbors’ businesses.
May: Celebrate graduations. No matter how old or young you are, you know someone who is graduating from some level of school, military training or vocational preparation. Make sure they hear from you with a note or a gift or a party. Achievement should be praised. And if the graduate needs a job, marshal your contacts. Good time to make a calendar of birthdays and anniversaries to remember.
June: Grow something. Plant or join a community garden. Or just till a plot in your own yard. Vegetables or flowers, or both. Even a small potted indoor plant. Put your fingers in the dirt, and tend the soil. Learn patience and gratitude for nature’s mysteries and your place in it.
July: Wave flag. Go to a parade, install a flagpole on your front porch, buy a John Phillip Souza CD to play in your car, pray for the troops, send a care package to someone on the battlefield, read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution all the way through. Loving the world starts at home; it just doesn’t end there.
August: Commit spiritually. Whatever your faith tradition, decide to practice it faithfully. As school routines begin for some, make Sunday school and worship non-negotiables in your schedule. Put God first this fall, and watch everything else fall into place.
September: Read books. As kids break open textbooks, read alongside if not along with them. A book a month is good nourishment for mind and soul. Consider alternating fiction and non-fiction. Include reading about your own faith or someone else’s. Your conversational life will improve.
October: Unclutter life. Before the cold of winter, clean out the closet of anything you haven’t worn in a year. To keep it unworn is to keep it from someone who would wear it. Deliver it to a benevolence organization. Same with knickknacks and doodads and treasures laid up where moths and rust corrupt.
November: Practice gratitude. Get a running start on Thanksgiving by writing a personal note each day to someone. Don’t let the art be lost on you. A handwritten note means more now that few do it. Being a grateful person grows out of doing acts of gratitude. Start with a prayer of thanks before each note.
December: Give unexpectedly. Double tip your waitress. Double tithe to your congregation. Slip the mail carrier and hairdresser something extra. Overdo it with people you love. Defeat materialism by lavishing non-material gifts of love such as acts of service.
Be it so resolved …