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EDITORIAL: Options to consider for New Year’s resolutions

The changing of the calendar has long been associated with the human need to reflect and re-examine in pursuit of growth and self-improvement. Historians tell us that the Babylonians 4,000 years ago were the first people to make resolutions and celebrate each new year.

Centuries ago, most resolutions had a decidedly spiritual bent. That’s less so today, as many new year’s pledges involve overcoming bad habits, advancing personal goals or initiating more positive interaction with others — although the latter certainly fits nicely with the tenets of the faithful.

Alas, a great many resolutions are all but forgotten as January gives way to February. Unrealistic expectations, a dearth of motivation and a lack of patience can decimate the best laid plans. Better to take on more realistic goals, starting small and working forward with each step of progress.

A 24-hour town such as Las Vegas can present its own challenges to the resolution-minded. But there are scores of opportunities in Southern Nevada for effecting positive change. In addition, this can be done easily and without fear of failure, while bringing benefits to the community.

■ Volunteer: Las Vegas has dozens of nonprofits toiling tirelessly to alleviate civic woes and make life better for the less fortunate. They operate in virtually every sphere of the community, touching issues such as education, the environment, hunger, homelessness, child welfare, the elderly and the disabled. Just giving your time once a week — or even once a month — can change lives and advance noble goals. Start at volunteermatch.org.

■ Know your neighbors: Big block walls are a characteristic of Las Vegas neighborhoods and tend to enforce a type of self-isolation. It’s not unusual for Southern Nevadans who have lived in their home for years to have no idea who resides two houses down or even next door. Take the time this year to meet your neighbors. Tight-knit neighborhoods have fewer problems and residents enjoy a higher quality of life.

■ One good deed: Psychology Today reports that unexpectedly doing something for someone else “can make the difference between depression and happiness.” There’s no need to make a production out of it. Even the smallest of gestures — a sincere “thank you,” a positive comment, a genuine smile, deference to another driver — can de-escalate potential conflicts and help engender a sense of purpose and shared humanity.

■ Take a break from social media: We live in deeply divided times, and many social critics blame those ubiquitous electronic devices we all carry. Civility seems a lost art when vitriol can be transmitted anonymously from a keypad. “We send angry tweets to people we’ve never met,” wrote Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader in a USA Today op-ed. “To people we’ve never even tried to understand. Social media has made us anything but social; it’s made us uncivilized.” Take a break every few weeks from social media platforms. Vow to listen instead of lashing out.

Happy New Year.

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