BY MANDY KITCHENER
So easy to make, so easy to break…But what makes keeping a resolution so difficult? Even now, just three weeks from prime resolution season at the beginning of January, I see some of my friends giving up on their resolutions, things they meant to have last all year. Is it really that hard to keep doing something that’s good for you? How can you stay on (or jump back on) to that band wagon of good intentions so many of us are a part of around oshogatsu?
While it’s all well and good to try to live better lives, are we just setting ourselves up to fail?
A good question to start with is “Am I starting small enough?” Many people make ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated. Start small! We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time If we can make consistent, small steps in the right direction then we’re half way there. How about instead of quitting smoking cold turkey, cutting back first? Or going for more walks instead of sitting in front of the TV.
There is a clever campaign in Australia at the moment called “Swap it, don’t stop it.” It offers up good ways of making small changes and starting good habits. It encourages you, for example to swap big for small, swap often for sometimes, swap sitting for moving, etc. There’s an entire website with free downloadable iPhone apps and programs and a media campaign like the clip below.
1) Take better care of yourself. Take the time to rest, eat well and get enough exercise. Make the effort to maintain low stress levels and cultivate a positive attitude towards yourself. This may be a challenge for some(!), especially here in Japan where working hours are long and women are often very focused on career and workplace challenges, but it has immeasurable benefits, so write some ideas down and keep on trying.
2) Meat free Mondays. Have a day of vegetarianism at least one day of the week.
Eating more vegetables is not only great for your health but also good for the planet too! UN’s top climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri states that “People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming. UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.” Now, there’s a thought. There are lots of tasty vegetarian recipes here, and though it can be hard to maintain an entirely vegetarian lifestyle in Japan, an abundance of rice, noodles, local veggies and soy products makes it more than doable for a day each week.
3) Volunteer and help others. The Tohoku region still has plenty of ways to help. Everyone feels better when they’ve helped someone. If you have little time you can always help in different ways, such as donating a coat or blanket to one of the initiatives taking them north. Email Caroline (caroline [at] carolinepover [dot] com) for more information.
4) Enjoy life more! Ask yourself what would make you happier? Probably having more of something good, like having more fun with friends or making time for a new hobby. You could learn something new; a language, how to knit or even how to make that dish from your favourite izakaya.
5) And finally, try to be as grateful as possible. One recurring attribute of people who are happy is a state of being grateful and appreciative for what is around them. This is something that can be cultivated. An easy way to start is to pay someone a compliment every day. There is always something worth applauding, be it a cheerful waitress or a helpful colleague.
If you manage to do any or all of the above, give yourself a big pat on back and keep on going. Or, as Oprah Winfrey has said: “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”
Eggplant seasoned with miso. It has a sweet flavour.
Yield: four servings
• 3/4 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch-thick rounds
• 1/4 lb green bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
• 3 Tbsp miso
• 1 1/2 Tbsp mirin
• 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
• 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Mix miso, mirin, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a medium skillet and fry eggplants on medium heat until softened. Add green bell pepper and stir-fry them until softened. Turn down the heat to low. Add miso mixture and stir quickly with the ingredients. Stop the heat.
Mandy blogs here.