By Marie Fricker

January can be a bit of a letdown from the joyous, action-packed anticipation of the holiday season. Just a month ago you were buying presents, lighting candles, decorating houses, and seeing relatives you have missed all year – and a few that you’ve learned to endure – for a family dinner or two.

December and its fun red-letter days tend to make us forget about the freezing cold nights, snow shoveling, and windshield scraping that lies ahead. But January is the wake-up call. Your sparkling Christmas tree, draped with ornamental childhood memories, has now been relegated to the dump or a backyard compost pile. In its stead are a few scattered New Year’s cards and the inevitability of slippery roads and frigid nights.

As the dark months of January and February linger, some people actually suffer from a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the product of cabin fever, low levels of natural sunshine, and the desire to welcome the summer solstice, which marks the beginning of summer in mid-June. Usually on June 20 or 21, the sun reaches the highest point in the sky, giving us a long day and a short night. The sun is most powerful on the solstice and is viewed as a time of powerful healing.

Unfortunately, we must weather the winter storms before bathing in the quintessential warmth of the summer solstice. Still, this is no reason to truly despair or fall into the SAD trap. Life is still good. And many people have made New Year’s resolutions to improve their habits or lifestyle. Many will fail, make false starts, and soon lose interest in the goal, but some will stick to their convictions and change their lifestyles for the better.

Al Fricker of Scituate made the goal of quitting cigarettes as a New Year’s resolution in 1992.

“I was a three-pack a day chain smoker for 30 years, said Fricker. “I had tried to quit four times, mostly cold turkey, but always went back. Then I made the resolution to make this work the fifth time. I booked an appointment with a very pricey hypnotist, whom I really didn’t believe in at all. I lit up my first cigarette on the way home from his office. Then I got furious at myself for spending all that money and I never had a cigarette again. The result: less of my smoker’s cough and more spending money. It was a great resolution.”

Losing weight is another popular New Year’s goal, with diet workshops and healthy eating programs seeing huge increases in participants and profits during the first or second months of the year, but tapering off soon afterward. Sometimes, a group of friends will pool their resources and enroll into programs like TOPS, Weight Watchers, intermittent fasting, Nutrisystem or hospital-based weight-loss programs. A popular plan right now, which seems to have taken flight, is the plant-based Mediterranean diet, which purports to be the healthiest, non-deprival road to weight loss. And a digital app called Noom touts that it “promotes long-term, sustainable results by helping users build healthy habits.”

“I have tried every diet known to mankind,” said Lydia Marshall of Marion, who is now a slim and active senior. “But I know how important it was to my health to lose some weight and I finally found some programs that actually worked for me. I just kept trying.”

New Year’s resolutions for healthy habits not only extend to food consumption, but also to exercise tailored to all ages. Rita LaRosa Loud is the director of the Wayne Westcott Ph.D Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College. 

“Our strength sessions are intended for busy seniors,” said the fitness instructor, who holds a B.S. in exercise physiology and is a published author. “Many people think they need to lose weight by simply changing or limiting the foods they eat, but seniors and others are coming to realize that strength workouts, just 20-30 minutes, 2-3 days a week, are a number-one priority in giving them a better life.” 

For a free tour of the Quincy fitness center, contact Rita LaRosa Loud at 617-405-5978.

When desires to create a “better you” bubble to the surface after the hectic holidays, don’t ignore them. Sure, you may be thinking, “I’ll never stick to this. I’ll quit after a month. I won’t lose a pound, why bother?” But New Year’s resolutions may improve your lifestyle and stamina if you give them an earnest try. 

Get into an exercise or healthy eating program and stick with it as long as you can. Your spirit will be alive, refreshed, and energized when the summer solstice brings the sun.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse not to try” – U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt