On New Year’s resolutions: giving up the farm

I get a lot of email from outside sources. Most of the time, I just delete it. I much prefer that the lifestyles section of the OBSERVER focuses on local people and events.

However, since it is the beginning of the year and some folks have made New Year’s resolutions, a submission from a public relations person for Dr. Prakash Masand caught my eye. Dr. Masand is a psychiatrist who is now president of Global Medical Education. He was formerly a professor at Duke University and Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. His site at Global Medical Education (www.gmeded.com) is a resource for medical professionals but can also be used by “lay people.” There was no cost to use the site when I checked it out.

The email I received gave his top 10 reasons individuals do not keep New Year’s resolutions and 10 suggestions to improve mental health in the New Year. For someone who has written many articles on psychiatry, the advice seemed short, understandable, and possibly useful. See the fact box on page C5.

Dr. Masand called me back when I left a message with his public relations person. We chatted about resolutions and his background. When asked about his time at Upstate Medical Center, he admitted he doesn’t miss the snow.

Concerning New Year’s resolutions, he said, “Probably the biggest problem is that people try to do in one year what they haven’t done in the last 50.”

I remember making and writing down a list of resolutions when I was in elementary and high school. Save a portion of my allowance. Keep my grades up. Clean my room more often. Be more organized.

There were many others I have forgotten. I do remember the years in high school and college that I would vow to lose weight. In general by spring, my weight would be at a recommended level and I could hold it there until the next winter.

As I got older, I would assess my life with the coming of the New Year, but I didn’t make any resolutions. In my busy 30s and 40s, the weight was healthy enough. In my 50s it inched up higher than I liked, but by that time, I got out of the habit of making resolutions.

Except for the year I gave up the farm. I quit “FarmVille” and I did it cold turkey. It wouldn’t have been a New Year’s resolution but the time was right to quit.

As a co-worker at the OBSERVER said, “You should take care of something when you need to do it; not wait until the New Year.”

I needed to quit playing this game to reduce my stress level. Coincidentally, things peaked at the holiday season.

Contrary to Masand’s advice, I didn’t tell anyone about my resolution. I don’t know if there is a “FarmVille” quitters’ support group, but it might be a good idea. Most of my closest friends, those I see and talk to in person, had no idea what this game is even about .

My addiction to “FarmVille” began soon after I joined Facebook. Some of my facebook friends played “FarmVille” and sent me requests. At first I did not want to be bothered. Then I got curious and began looking at the game and trying to make sense out of it. I created a small farm so these friends could have another neighbor.

One thing lead to another. I became intrigued with figuring out which crops gave the best return and which ones could be planted and harvested when I had time to go on line. Were animals, trees or crops a better use of space considering the yield of each? It was interesting to see how my neighbors planned their farms. Some were artistic, creating patterns of flowers (which were crops too) interspersed with other crops. Others were practical, using every spare inch to plant.

To advance, it was necessary to accumulate “FarmVille” money and neighbors. Neighbors can give gifts or help raise barns (or later cooperate to meet a goal). To be able to expand a farm, an increasingly larger number of neighbors was needed.

A farmer earns money when crops or animals are harvested. However, it costs money to seed a field or buy an animal. Houses and ornaments cost money but allow the farmer to reach a higher level in the game.

I credit myself with never spending real money to buy special animals or a ring to unwither my crops. But I spent lots of time down on the farm. It took time to accept gifts from and send gifts to my neighbors. It took time to visit my neighbors’ farms to help by fertilizing their crops, so they would do the same for me. It took time to plow and seed the field. To advance, I had to master different crops, which matured in differing amounts of time. That required more visits to the farm. If “time is money” I became a pauper. During certain times, the site would have problems and become slow. I had to come back later or put up with the slow pace.

My recreation became increasingly annoying. I already had a job. This somehow had become another job. I wasn’t having fun anymore. So after reaching level 93, I quit.

Since I considered quitting in December, I decided to do it in the New Year and as my New Year’s resolution. Quitting wasn’t that difficult but there were temptations. I continued to receive requests from “FarmVille” friends. Once or twice tempted to go back to the farm, just for a look. Eventually, I defriended many of the people who were added to my friend list solely because they were friends of friends who needed neighbors. I blocked “FarmVille” posts. I have steadfastly refused to look at requests to play candy crush saga, which seems the most popular now among my facebook friends, or any other game. I know I have a ‘workaholic’ personality that makes these games more stressful than fun for me.

Resolution recommendations

Dr Masand’s top 10 reasons why individuals do not keep their New Year resolutions:

1. Too many resolutions: keep it simple

2. Too abstract resolutions: make it tangible

3. Not concrete enough: make it measurable

4. Too ambitious: take small steps to achieve goals

5. No accountability: share list with friends and family

6. No charting of progress: keep a to-do list for goals

7. No will power: keep believing in yourself

8. Not enough carrots; reward yourself for success

9. Easily give up: failure is inevitable, push forward

10. Fantasizing about success: prepare for the challenge instead

Dr. Masand’s advice to improve mental health in the New Year:

1. Get enough sleep

2. Indulge in alcohol or caffeine only in moderation

3. Take medications as prescribed

4. Exercise for 30 minutes at least three times a week

5. Try to look at the brighter side of things even if difficult

6. Schedule some fun activities at least once a week

7. Reconnect with friends and family

8. Try to resolve conflicts earlier than you usually do

9. Try harder to forgive

10. Remind yourself of your resolutions every night at bedtime

If anyone is interested in sharing a story about New Year’s resolutions or reactions to Dr. Masand’s advice, contact lifestyles@observertoday.com. or write to Diane Chodan c/o the Observer, Box 391 Dunkirk, NY 14048 by Jan. 13. If I get a sufficient number of interesting responses, I will publish some of them in a future Sunday lifestyles section.