It’s that time of the year when people start vowing to improve themselves by making New Year’s resolutions. Whether you are promising to lose weight, get your financial house in order or eat more veggies, the idea is to make that goal happen before 2018 rolls around.

It’s easy to make New Year’s resolutions. Keeping them is the hard part.

Stick to your guns

“Only 8 percent of people end up making their resolutions stick,” according to research by John Norcross, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. He is a specialist in behavior change and self-help, and author of the book “Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.”

Many people fall off the wagon after a few weeks. Twenty-five percent of the resolution-makers that Norcross studied dropped off after the first week. That is mostly because goals are either unrealistic or so vague there is no solid plan on how to achieve them.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Norcross comments: “It’s not so much the resolution as it is how attainable or realistic the goal is. You know, someone says, ‘I’m going to lose 50 pounds and keep it off this year’ versus ‘I think I’ll struggle to keep 10 off – that’s a little more realistic.’ So, it has more to do with the realism of the resolution than exactly what the behavior is.

“We say, if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution, because vague goals beget vague resolutions.”

But there is good news about making resolutions – and about 40 to 50 percent of us make them, according to various reports.

Norcross found that at six months, people who make New Year’s resolutions are more than 10 times as likely to keep them as people who do not make resolutions at the start of the year. He also found that just 4 percent of “non-resolvers” could say that they had continuously stuck with an attempt to change something after six months.

According to Norcross, some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are weight loss, improving finances and exercising. Others include getting a new job, getting organized, quitting smoking, improving relationships and spending more time with family.

History

Even though many fall off the resolution bandwagon, the tradition continues – as it has since the time of ancient Babylon. The first New Year’s resolution dates back some 4,000 years when Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of each Christmas season to re-affirm their commitment of chivalry.

Ultimately, the idea – both in ancient times and modern times – is to reflect upon self-improvement every year.

While weight loss, finances and fitness may be at the top of your list, here are some other options to consider if you want to make a change or try something new in 2017.

Tap into your right brain

That is the side of your noggin that performs tasks that have do with creativity and the arts. Try an art class at the National Gallery; start journaling; sign up with Kara’s Glass Garden for Art by the Glass, an adult “paint and sip” party; take a photography class with Cathy Church; or try an acting lesson with the Cayman Drama Society. The process of creating art has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood and boost your immune system.

Sign up for Dranuary

It stands for Dry January and it’s a trend. With all the excesses of the season, abstaining from alcohol for the first month of the year has become a popular resolution. The U.K. advocacy organization Alcohol Concern gave the no-drinking challenge a high profile, and it has now spread to many other countries. Taking a break from Cayman’s cocktail culture could be a jump-start to better drinking habits and better health. By saying no to the tipple, you will likely have more energy, get better sleep, lose a bit of weight and your pocketbook will thank you.

Try something new

For the coming year, why not resolve to try something new – learn to dive, travel to a place that you’ve never been to, volunteer, watch a TED talk, join a yoga session or take a class at UCCI. You could ask a friend to try a new activity with you, and take turns at suggestions each month.

Read more

The New Year is a good time to stop Netflix-binging (or limit it) and pick up a book. Put down your phone and set aside some time to read. It could become a habit – and it’s good for you. Studies show that reading can reduce stress, boost knowledge, increase your vocabulary and improve memory and concentration. Check out the library, Books & Books, Book Nook or the Humane Society Book Loft.

Be kind to others

The holiday season is filled with charity and goodwill. It does not take long, however, for Scrooge to return. Those who were here after Hurricane Ivan will remember a great sense of community, empathy and kindness in the aftermath. People began working together and helping each other out. It made a difference. So, channel that community feeling, and plan to do something nice – help a neighbor, donate blood, pay a compliment. Make it a daily ritual. Kindnesses, big or small, make a difference. Be part of Caymankind, which asks everyone to be “courteous, compassionate and caring.”

Stop and smell the roses

Slow down. People get so wrapped up and busy they miss the little things in life. Go outside at night and look at the stars; take in one of Cayman’s stunning sunsets; commune with nature in Dart Family Park; sink your toes in the sand. Enjoy some island time. Unlike a lot of places in the rest of the world, Cayman has set aside a day for slowing down – Sunday. Resolve to make it a day of downtime.

Get on your feet

If fitness is a goal, then get moving. Walking is a great, low-impact way to get in shape. Fitness experts will agree motivation is key when it comes to staying on the exercise wagon. Signing up for one of the island’s numerous fun runs/walks can help. It not only encourages people to get off the couch, but these events usually give back to the community by raising funds for charitable causes.

There are six runs in January alone: Cayman Cross Country Race 3.5 Mile on Jan. 8; FNS New Day Charity 5K Walk and Run on Jan. 14; Cayman bRUNch 5-10K on Jan. 15; Every Step Counts Pedometer Challenge on Jan. 16; Cayman National Charity Walk Run 5-10K on Jan. 28; and the Nationwide Stride Against Cancer on Jan. 29. Check out CaymanActive.com for details.

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