Forget ‘Dry January’ and Other New Year’s Resolutions

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“The world is on fire,” said Asia Wong, a clinical social worker and director of counseling and health services at Loyola University in New Orleans. “Why are you trying to lose 20 pounds?”

Last year, Rebecca Fletcher, a teacher in Wirral, England, said she went the entire month of January without drinking alcohol.

After indulging in prosecco over the holidays, she decided to try to repeat that success.

Ms. Fletcher, 49, said she gave up after two weeks.

“I’m sorry, Dry January. It’s just not working out,” she said on Twitter, posting a photo of a glass of pinot grigio. “It’s not you. It’s me.”

Nathian Shae Rodriguez, a journalism and media studies professor at San Diego State University, made two promises to himself in December: say “no” more often and answer emails more quickly.

“I’m a first-generation Mexican-American, queer-of-color professor and that in and of itself comes with a lot of invisible labor that people don’t recognize,” he said.

Students seek him out for advice and faculty members often ask him to speak on gay and immigrant rights at lectures or ask him to join committees, Professor Rodriguez said.

The vows he made for 2021 felt like a simple and necessary gift of time to himself.

“For the first couple of days I was on a roll,” said Professor Rodriguez, 39. He politely declined various requests to sit on committees and write recommendation letters from students he did not know well.

Then came Jan. 6, and the siege of the Capitol. Students were frightened and confused and sought him out on social media, where he is active. Professor Rodriguez said gay students from conservative families felt especially unmoored.

“They needed reassurance that things were going to be OK,” he said. Saying no felt impossible.

An effective way to keep a resolution is to remember that you have 11 more months to meet your goals, Ms. Wong, the social worker, said.

“This is a nice time to take stock,” she said. “This is a nice time to reflect and say, ‘If I could change things, what would I change?’”

Then, she added, “commit to that as a yearlong plan.”

Humans are hard-wired to cope with stress through escape and then reward, said Judy Grisel, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University and a behavioral neuroscientist.

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