New Year’s Resolutions to help make the world a better place 

Instead of those tired old New Year’s resolutions everyone makes (and breaks!) – join the gym or go back to the gym, lose weight, drink less, etc – how about some resolutions that will make the people in your life happy, and extend it wider to include other people, animals and the environment? 

While you are not the immediate beneficiary of these selfless resolutions, there is definitely something in it for you. Research shows that doing things for others brings a lot of satisfaction and affirmation for the giver or doer. And many of these gestures don’t cost anything, just your time and attention. 

After the awful year that we’d love to forget about and move on, here are a few ideas for making a positive impact in 2021. 

Spend more quality time with your family 

Children grow up so fast, and they’re not going to remember you for how hard you worked, what a great handicap you had on the golf course, or how many diplomas you earned. What they need is time with their parents giving them their undivided attention. 

For the young ones, a bedtime story read every night will give them pleasure and a sense of security. With older kids, you can take them on a ‘playdate’, with activities chosen by them – playing a board game, an afternoon at the skate park, a movie or a milkshake. Time is precious, so make sure your children get enough of it with you.  

Say it with flowers 

Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or a birthday to gift the women in your life a bunch of flowers; pleasantly surprise them on any occasion, or no occasion at all. 

If your wife or girlfriend has had a tough week, come home with flowers. If you’re dropping in to see your mom or sister, ditto. A small gesture like a bouquet of flowers shows you care and have made an effort. Your reward is their pleasure at being made to feel special. 

Get to know your neighbours 

Back in the day, everyone knew their neighbours, but nowadays we can go through life never knowing anything about the people who live next door or over the road. Neighbours can be allies and helpful in neighbourhood security or lending you jumper cables when your car won’t start, for example. 

So go over and introduce yourself, let them know you’re happy to lend a hand if they ever need help and, if they’re friendly enough, invite them over for a drink or even a braai. You never know, you might become great friends. 

Adopt a pet from a shelter 

For some, a companion animal really makes a house a home. If you’re looking to acquire an adorable pet, please consider not spending thousands on a dog or cat from a breeder and adopting one (or two) from a shelter. These homeless animals deserve a second chance and will reward you with endless hours of companionship, fun and entertainment. 

Although puppies and kittens are very cute, they require a lot more attention and training. Adult cats and dogs are often overlooked, and end up spending years in cages at the shelter, or may be put down. Adopting a fully-grown pet is often easier to integrate into the family and you will feel the satisfaction of knowing you made a big difference in that lovely animal’s life. 

Visit or call your parents/grandparents more often 

For many of us, our days and weeks are full with work, family, exercise and social life commitments. Weeks go by and you’ve made no contact with your parents. Older people, especially now, often feel isolated and interaction with family is something they really look forward to you. 

If you live in the same town, make a point of visiting your parent/s regularly. A visit from grown children and grandchildren will definitely be a highlight for a parent. If you’ve moved away from your hometown, set aside a regular time at least once a week or fortnight for a catch-up call with your folks, who will really appreciate hearing your voice. 

Make a monthly donation to a charity 

Whether it benefits children, animals or any other worthy cause, even a small monthly donation made by many people makes all the difference to these organizations who rely mostly or exclusively on donations from the public to keep going. 

If you’re an animal lover, there are numerous shelters and animal charities to choose from. If you care about underprivileged children, there are many children’s homes, early education centres and other organizations who desperately need funds to run their worthy projects. The options are limitless, so consider making a difference by donating what you can afford. 

Less plastic, less waste, less pollution 

The amount of plastic used globally is a great cause for concern. We can’t recycle enough of it and it ends up for centuries in landfills and, worryingly, in the oceans, killing precious sea life. 

You can decide not to contribute to the plastic problem by using less plastic in your daily life. Always use re-useable shopping bags (keep them in your car boot so you don’t forget), choose products in glass bottles and jars where possible and take re-useable net bags to weigh fruit and veg in. We can’t avoid plastic altogether, so recycle plastic and polystyrene containers where you can. 

Help keep it clean and green 

Whether you live at the coast or inland, there are many areas that are littered with rubbish and waste, or taken over by alien vegetation. There is a growing movement to not rely on councils and to ‘clean up our act’ through active citizenship. 

Organized beach and river cleanups are now a regular activity, so join in if you can. Or just take a bag along wherever you go walking in nature – on the beach, in a park, on a hike – and pick up the trash that inconsiderate people have left. In fact, you can start in your own neighbourhood, picking up cans, plastic bottles and chip packets in gutters and on pavements – every little bit helps.