By: Sara Jones

Not only are we back to Mac for a fresh start to another semester, but we've opened new calendars to celebrate the start of 2017. One idea commonly tied to this time of year is that of new year's resolutions. Many have previous personal experiences with resolutions and various preconceptions as a result.

There are some resolutions that are seen as typical, for instance trying a new type of exercise class in DBAC, picking up more fresh fruits from Fortinos or overcoming an undesired habit - for me, chewing pens while writing exams. But resolutions can be thought of simply as ideas that you strive towards for yourself. With this broad definition in mind, resolutions could be about anything at all.

Many seem to follow this trend! While popularity in itself isn’t a reason to adopt or change anything, it may be a reflection of something positive that others have found. There is even evidence of the popularity here at Mac from the Pulse’s data tracking the number of participants in the gym over the months of the year. Even with just a quick glance walking by, the January spike in gym attendance was surprisingly noticeable.

While some might shy away from “trends” popularized by masses of people, having a shared experience with others can be helpful! Working towards a resolution alongside someone with a similar goal could be an opportunity to build a motivating and supportive relationship through the successes and troubles of your new year’s journey.

The idea of the new year as a new beginning and a new opportunity to make healthy changes in one’s life truly resonates with many people. If making new year’s resolutions feels meaningful to you, regardless of their eventual outcome or the skepticism of others, you can make them!

If the popularity of new year’s resolution phenomenon could be considered a “pro” in this debate, the popularity of dropping or having a change of heart about resolutions should be an equally compelling “con”. It somehow seems that the expectation of an unattained new year's resolution is more common than that of a successful one. The presumed low success rate of this mentality is not particularly encouraging, to say the least.

What makes the new year special? Anyone’s body and mind can benefit from healthy changes in your lifestyle or outlook at any time in the year. Not only that, but the focus on this one time of year as the one for change can leave some feeling defeated if they don’t feel that they have accomplished their goal of transformation at the time they desire.

While the popularity of this trend does pique my curiosity and that of many others, it is also easy to see how this could have negative impacts. The pervasiveness of the workout and dieting culture can promote an idea of normalcy around dieting, exercise and striving for body transformation, but those ideas are not for everyone. This can leave some feeling excluded, and what’s worse, it can add to societal pressures to conform to norms about bodies, habits and self-concepts.

The variable pros and cons of the mentality of and culture surrounding new year’s resolutions and the “new year, new me” phrase are considerable. But of course, it is up to each person to decide on what that mentality does or doesn’t mean to them.

Six degrees of separation. The golden standard that shows that as distant as we grow from one another, we will never be more than a half dozen people apart.

I come from a part of the world where nobody is further than two or three degrees apart, and I think it’s an ideal that Canadians can and should aspire towards.

It all starts by reaching out.

Case and point: I probably would not have taken the effort to speak to the dreadlocked 50-something sitting next to me at a pub on New Year’s Eve, but he felt quite the opposite.

What started as an innocent “what are your plans for tonight?” led to an hour-long conversation which felt too surreal to be true. He was a British paratrooper. He runs one of the biggest window-washing companies in all of Toronto. He’s been featured by The Star, talked on air to Rick Mercer, and knows more about preparing turtle meat than anyone else I have met to date. So yeah, you could say he was quite more substantial than my initial impressions may have suggested.

He opened a door that bridged all six gaps in an instant.

But it’s not all about meeting celebrities and seafood connoisseurs. Some people desperately need to be reached out to, and won’t take that first step themselves. The onus falls on those slightly braver few to break down these barriers that our society of strangers has constructed.

A theme we constantly revisit in articles and features is this idea of mental wellness. It’s an unfortunate reality that many students suffer from depression. They are especially depressed in the winter months, such as the one are at the facing now. This is one of the MSU’s priorities, and the university has many services to this very end, but it doesn’t have to be the only solution to an ever-present problem.

An innocuous “hello,” or a casual “how are you” can open a new door for someone looking for a friend or study buddy. The worst that could happen is you get told to sod off, but  even that is a connection of sorts.

Expand your horizons. Go speak to people outside of your residence floor or house. Strangers like to keep their distance but one might argue that distance creates strangers.

I implore you to make 2015 the year that six became five.   

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