Hands up who has made a New Year’s resolution?
Keep your hand up if your pledge revolves around something to make you feel better about yourself like losing weight, giving up a vice (smoking or chocolate), be a better partner or taking up regular exercise.
And who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves? We all do. Every year at around the same point, as I notice my belt beginning to squeeze, I used to heave myself off the sofa to lackadaisically sign up to one of the hundreds of predictable resolutions that seduced me with ‘100% satisfaction guaranteed’ all in the vague hope it would make me feel and be great. It never did. Too dramatic or too speedy. They come as neatly packaged solutions to feel good bliss such as: ‘The Get Rich Quick Scheme!’ ‘What you should eat to be a size zero.’ ‘Get a six pack fast- No effort required.’ ‘Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Relationship.’
Let’s not pretend, the slog is all to much like hard work. No sooner has New Year been toasted and sung in than we are happy to quietly slip back to old habits. We'll hold on to our curves, resume those stress induced cigarettes, resort to chocoholic solutions to solve our problems - and we are only too thankful when the daily jogs (that were never anything more than a weekly slog) peter out altogether.
Of course, we all know deep down that true happiness has nothing to do with the weighing scales, the number of followers we have on Twitter, the gems that embellish our fake eyelashes or the version of iPad we use. But you would think going by the trends of the ‘Me Generation’ for who the ‘idols are money, image and fame’, writes psychologist Jean Twenge and author of the book ‘Generation Me,’ it is.
This is a generation, she says, of individuals who are more wrapped up in their own lives and problems than those around them and who would rather splash out on materialism instead of making free decisions out of concern and kindness. In a society that has geared us to revere money and self preoccupation I imagine most of us of all ages can identify ways in which we too have gone with the flow and ‘lionise our own lives’ and ‘functionally create a buffer between individuals, which makes it easier to ignore others' pain, or even at times, inflict pain upon others.’ No wonder then, that in the rampant consumerist society of today, so bent on instant fixes, it is hard to find anything that feels gratifying for long.
But it is not all a picture of me me me. Being self focused provides a stronger dispensation to embrace our big hearts and release the compassion. “Britain remains one of the world's most generous nations” in giving to charities, says John Low of the Charities Aid Foundation, and despite the harsh economic climate we still managed to fork out £9.3bn in donations last year. 20 million of us volunteer in the UK, a generosity that only continues to grow, and look at the success of the London Olympics - that was partly put down to its 70,000 fabulous dedicated volunteers. We’re traditionally a national of animal lovers, too and it was us British who were the first to have a society that campaigned for specifically their welfare, a royal one at that.
So this year, instead of just recommending another miracle fix that we all know won’t last beyond the hangover, I offer you a resolution that is a bit about you and making you feel better, and a bit about showing you care too. It reflects the big themes of 2013 that affect us all as well: the persisting thrifty economic times, environmental disorder, the health challenges linked to the obesity epidemic and sex (I’ll explain later) so we can all feel like we’re doing our bit.
It is bound to be difficult to feel good when we serve up reheated dead bodies day in, day out. By eliminating the needless appalling treatment and misery that animals killed for food endure, becoming vegetarian is a single step that all at once can make you feel lighter, thinner, fitter, more caring, healthier, planet saving, bootylicious and glowing in that warmth from an act of kindness.
Being a vegetarian means you’re likely to live longer too, to enjoy its benefits and its good for those of us on a budget, as beans and falafel tend to be a damn sight cheaper than meat - and quite rightly so. It’s all about life affirming living for ourselves and fellow humans, and leaving the planet as we found it capable of supporting future generations.
Surveys have shown that being a vegetarian is good for our sex lives too, and there’s no denying lentil lovers have become legendary in their stamina and prowess in the sack. At the end of last year, Men’s Health published another report that recommended its readers cut out meat, fish and dairy from their diet so they could perform better between the sheets.
All you have to do now is rejoice in life after Christmas to feel good - not just for this New Year, but for all New Years to come. It’s not difficult, it’s not weird, it’s not nutty or extreme to show you care. It’s just a simple act of kindness to yourself and the rest of mankind - and millions of animals will thank you for sparing them their lives.