The difficulty with "new year resolutions" is that, while they often fit the recipe for positive-ageing, people drop them once it gets difficult… even though that's exactly when they should persevere!
The key is therefore to find some support, to help you keep going through the initial barrier, until you start enjoying benefits.
[This is why there's serious follow-up available, if you start meditating at (e.g. thanks to the retreats in January!), on dāna. Most participants drop meditation as soon as they leave any retreat, unless support is available to help them strengthen a wholesome routine… cf. http://en.dharma.house/samsara.htm]
To register to a class usually isn't enough, because there's no emotional 'bond' to prevent you from dropping the class; the "money would be wasted if I stop going" argument rarely is enough to pull you through.
To go to a class with someone you're close to, or to at least have the possibility to share / show what you learn to someone you're close to, is a lot better. If you're in a couple, if your partner at least shows interest in your production / progress (instead of ignoring it entirely or, worse, using it to put you down), then you're a lot more likely to stick to your resolution. Friends are good too. And sure the activity itself might be an opportunity to make new friends: so if you have no support network, then make it important to develop new friendships early in the activity.
A personal coach (who's someone on your side, to support your growth) can be a fantastic help too. It's slightly different from the teacher of any particular activity, because the teacher has a vested interest in you continuing this activity, rather than in finding the best activity for your growth (here&now, it might evolve through circumstances)! Your support network has to be interested in 'you' more than in the activity.
Last year, I learnt Pāḷi, and I'm still translating a sutta from the Pāḷi Canon on a regular basis, one year down the line, so this wasn't lost ;-) What certainly helped though is that my wife shows interest when I want to talk about some paragraph I'm struggling to understand, or some weird grammatical construct I met. She also shares my joy when I finally solve one of these translation problems…
She doesn't know Pāḷi herself, she doesn't need to. Just like I don't need to be at her level to support her through her painting challenges, but it helps that I'm interested in what she creates…
If you're looking for a personal coach, I strongly invite you to check 's website http://www.letyourbodytalk.uk.com/ and to consider re-creating yourself!
I've met many coaches in my life: most are 'nice' people but useless, because they rely on (falsely reassuring) multi-steps "methods" which lead you nowhere… because the interest is in the method and in them looking good / professional, rather than in you as a person! If I can assure you of one thing, it's that at will be interested in you and your growth; she'll care more about you than about herself, and that's why she's so incredibly effective in what she does! I obviously cannot breach confidentiality, but believe me, the changes her clients achieve are 'measurable', to say the least!
by Russ Abbott:
Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds.
Our lab used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan and compare the brains of 17 superagers with those of other people of similar age. We succeeded in identifying a set of brain regions that distinguished the two groups. These regions were thinner for regular agers, a result of age-related atrophy, but in superagers they were indistinguishable from those of young adults, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time.
What are these crucial brain regions? If you asked most scientists to guess, they might nominate regions that are thought of as “cognitive” or dedicated to thinking, such as the lateral prefrontal cortex. However, that’s not what we found. Nearly all the action was in “emotional” regions, such as the midcingulate cortex and the anterior insula.
Brain areas that Dr. MacLean considered emotional, such as the regions of the “limbic system,” are now known to be major hubs for general communication throughout the brain. They’re important for many functions besides emotion, such as language, stress, regulation of internal organs, and even the coordination of the five senses into a cohesive experience.
And now, our research demonstrates that these major hub regions play a meaningful role in superaging. The thicker these regions of cortex are, the better a person’s performance on tests of memory and attention, such as memorizing a list of nouns and recalling it 20 minutes later.
We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort.
The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment.
Superagers excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.
This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.
So, make a New Year’s resolution to take up a challenging activity. Learn a foreign language. Take an online college course. Master a musical instrument. Work that brain. Make it a year to remember.