The Blacks (from left), Henry, Nicole, and Ava (Matt was working) demonstrated their family’s New Year’s resolution of improving their diets. Nicole went through their home with garbage bags and got rid of all the “nasty” (unhealthy) food. The children’s snacks now consist of healthier alternatives, such as fruits and vegetables. The children both know the difference between healthy food and “nasty” food, and willingly chose to have an apple and a banana after their photos were taken. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)
The Blacks (from left), Henry, Nicole, and Ava (Matt was working) demonstrated their family’s New Year’s resolution of improving their diets. Nicole went through their home with garbage bags and got rid of all the “nasty” (unhealthy) food. The children’s snacks now consist of healthier alternatives, such as fruits and vegetables. The children both know the difference between healthy food and “nasty” food, and willingly chose to have an apple and a banana after their photos were taken. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Nearly a month into 2014, we thought it would be interesting to track how people are faring with their New Year’s resolutions. The custom was first used by the ancient Babylonians to make amends for their wrongdoings of the previous year. One of the most common resolutions was to return all borrowed farming equipment. The practice was passed down through generations.

But are the annual promises as popular as they once were? A CBS News poll in 2013 found that 68 percent of Americans don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, that number was 58 percent. In an informal (but certainly not scientific) survey of Putnam County residents of varied ages and gender, answers ranged from witty, to heartfelt, to deliberate.

“I don’t make them. I can’t stick to them,” Joslyn Johnson related. “I do better with Lent.” She explained she and her husband typically have a competition during the Lenten season.

Earl Forbush, 87, firmly responded, “I don’t make them — never have. If I’m not going to live up to them, I might as well not do them in the first place.”

A friend interjected, “But Earl, you said you were going to cut down on all those girlfriends!” That got a loud guffaw from the spry senior citizen.

Steve Nienberg gave one of the most straightforward answers as to why he doesn’t bother with resolutions.

“It’d work for the first eight hours, until I get up!” he laughed.

Several people said that while they do not make specific New Year’s resolutions, they work on good habits all the time. Teresa Rampe commented, “I don’t make them. I try to do things year ‘round.” Melissa Weaver said she does not make New Year’s resolutions, but does like the idea of making goals for herself. “I continually make improvements,” she stated.

Most people who made decisions to make New Year’s resolutions focused on self-improvement. Some of the most popular ones were: developing healthier eating and exercise habits, volunteering, and becoming more outgoing.

Jeremy Kaufman, a junior at Otttawa-Glandorf, related, “I want to lift more at the Y. I also want to get more As.”

Jose Cantu, a sophomore at Leipsic High School resolved to stay fit and to start working out. “I am really out of shape,” he lamented. He joined the YMCA.

“I love the workouts, and everybody tries to help you,” he observed. Cantu also wants to become more social and find new hobbies. He hopes to combine those choices, as he recently moved to Ottawa.

Jan Jones wants to use what resources she has. “I am trying not to go out and buy more. Even in my refrigerator, I want to use what I have,” she explained. “So far, I am doing well.”

Nicole Black went all out. The Ottawa resident related, “I plan to continue a healthy lifestyle. I added my husband, Matt, to the mix. I got rid of bad food in our house — boxes and garbage bags full of food. We are both on a cleanse together. Matt is drinking a lot more water, a lot less alcohol. Our kids don’t get candy when we’re at home. We’re trying to reward the kids with fun family activities as opposed to food.”

Julie Wade, also involved her whole family in . “We resolved to do more community service, and to connect with people who need us. We feel like our kids need this. If we stop doing community service, we become complacent. I don’t want to get to the point where we forget our blessings.”

Although the Wade family has not come up with a concrete plan, they would like to find something that their children can connect with other kids as opposed to adults. Brenda Michel plans to have a positive attitude toward herself and others. “I am tired of people treating each other unkindly in the world. My motto is ‘kill them with kindness.’ I want to reinforce the positive with something good. A smile goes a long way. You never know how a smile will affect someone,” she grinned.

Sometimes, New Year’s resolutions don’t last, even with the best-laid plans.

Dena Coates had decided to cut back to one cup of coffee a day. When she was snowed in at the beginning of the month, she had nothing to do but drink hot beverages all day.

“Now I’m back on the sauce!” she laughed. Why do people want to change their habits and attain success in their New Year’s resolutions? After all, change can be a big undertaking, and downright scary.

According to Jessica Cox, a licensed independent social worker at Pathways Counseling Center in Ottawa, “People want to improve themselves, and search until they find a habit they want to improve upon. The change helps us grow, and we learn about ourselves in the process.”

“Sometimes, our bad habits can get us in trouble,” she added. “ A bad habit takes a month or more to change, depending on the severity of the habit.” Cox explained people who want to change need support of friends and family. In addition, the person must make a specific plan for change. For example, it is not enough to say, “I want to exercise more.” A person who truly desires change must plan, among other factors, when, where, and how often he/she will exercise. If the person cannot follow the plan, it should be revised. Cox concluded, “We need to associate the new change with a positive emotion. Our emotions can drive us to change or not to change.”

Next week: Community programs are helping residents make life-altering improvements, and more assistance is on the horizon.