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The Dorsal View

The best laid plans of mice and men…

By now, no doubt you will be seeing a spike in the number of patients who want to change their lives via New Year resolutions. There is a greater arsenal than ever to deal with these situations in the shape of anti-smoking and alcohol control pharmacotherapies. Of course, there are no better tools than lifestyle change and willpower, but as they say, every little helps.

But for how many people is the New Year resolution ritual an exercise in futility?

Some recent (US-centric) data published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology sheds some light on the most common New Year resolutions. From one to 10, these are: Lose weight; get organised; spend less and save more; enjoy life; be fit and healthy; learn something stimulating; quit smoking; help others; fall in love; and finally, spend more time with family.

Some 45 per cent of people ‘usually’ make resolutions, while 17 per cent ‘infrequently’ do so and 38 per cent ‘never’ make resolutions.

However, overall, only 8 per cent of people say they are successful. But it’s the thought that counts, apparently. Those who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve specific goals than those who never make them.

As for the type of resolutions, those involving self-improvement or education make up almost half, at 47 per cent, followed by resolutions to lose weight, at 38 per cent.

The next-most common are money-related resolutions at 34 per cent, while relationship-related resolutions constitute 31 per cent (it’s not clear whether these are commitments to improve or end an existing relationship).

It also appears that the younger you are, the more likely you are to succeed. Around 39 per cent of people in their 20s are successful with their resolutions, while among those aged over 50 years, there’s a massive drop in the success rate to 14 per cent.

Predictably, some 75 per cent keep to their resolutions for only the first week after they have made them. This drops to 71 per cent who make it past two weeks, tailing-off to 64 per cent who are successful after one month and only 46 per cent who make it past six months.

We can be our own worst critics and when counselling someone on their well-intentioned resolutions, it might be a good idea to remind them to avoid being too hard on themselves if they slip up from time-to-time.

It might also be wise to introduce a little realism — a commitment to doing 100 sit-ups every day invites feelings of failure and self-loathing.

Perhaps the commitment to ‘spend more time with family’ is the most appealing and achievable for most of us.

A year to forget

As has been pointed out in many circles, the number of celebrities who passed away in 2016 is truly remarkable. The list seems endless and includes John Glenn, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole, Glenn Frey (of The Eagles, for those of a younger generation), Terry Wogan, George Kennedy, George Martin (Beatles producer), Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen… the full list is at least three times longer. But whatever your age or interests, you will no doubt have memories associated with at least one of these people. And then there’s Fidel Castro…

They left behind bodies of work that influenced so many spheres of society and art and here are just a couple of thought-provoking or funny quotes to provide insights into some of those who took their ‘final bow’ in the past year.

“My reputation as a ladies’ man was a joke that caused me to laugh bitterly through the 10,000 nights I spent alone.” Leonard Cohen.

“‘Impossible’ is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” Muhammad Ali.

“As an adolescent, I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn’t really have the nerve to sing my songs on stage, and nobody else was doing them. I decided to do them in disguise so that I didn’t have to actually go through the humiliation of going on stage and being myself.” David Bowie.

“I’m fine, but I’m bipolar. I’m on seven medications, and I take medication three times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I’m never quite allowed to be free of that for a day. It’s like being a diabetic.” Carrie Fisher.

“Gratuitously hurtful folk declare that I am very popular in hospitals because the listeners abed there are too weak to reach out and switch me off.” Terry Wogan.

“French wine growers fear that this year’s vintage may be entirely spoiled due to the grape treaders’ sit-in.” Ronnie Corbett.

“I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game. It’s called an eraser.” Arnold Palmer.

“My idea of neurotic is spending too much time trying to correct a wrong. When I feel that I’m doing that, then I snap out of it.” Gene Wilder.

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