Bleats

Don't Set Yourself Up To Fail By Making Overly-Ambitious New Year's Resolutions

As tempting as 'new year, new me' may be...

Every year, social media feeds are flooded with people going on about New Year’s resolutions. The most common ones are along the lines of losing weight, getting fit/healthy, learning a language, quitting smoking, and saving money.

Most are actually achievable goals. But we set ourselves up for failure when we infuse them with special meaning all because the date on the calendar has changed.

Instead of making changes because you want to, you’re making changes because everyone else is – it’s not a genuine decision born from a desire to improve yourself, it’s just another box to check off over the holiday period.

It’s far easier to make changes when the actual motivation is there – when you realise your bank account is in overdraft for the tenth time this year, or when you realise your pack-a-day habit has become a two-pack-a-day habit.

For me, the key is to start small. If you want to learn a language, start by using Duolingo for five or 10 minutes everyday – on the bus, on the train, in the bathroom at work. Once you’ve established that habit, then you can sign up for language classes, which are a significant commitment in a way Duolingo isn’t.

If you want to get fit, start by going for walks around the block, or jogging with your dog, or cycling with your lizard (I’m trying to be inclusive of all lifestyles here). Don’t commit to an expensive year-long gym membership until you’ve actually established the habit of regularly taking time to work out.

According to Charles Duhigg, an expert on behavioural psychology, most people fail to adopt new habits because they don’t adequately reward themselves for taking action on a beneficial habit.

Habits like smoking or drinking have built-in rewards; they flood your brain with dopamine. Excessive online shopping results in an endless stream of exciting purchases arriving at your door. But the benefits of longer term lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking or eating healthier, don’t give us any immediate gratification.

Find a way to reward yourself for trying to adopt a positive habit. Eat something delicious, or veg out for a while, or play your favourite game for the next half hour. Science recommends it – studies have shown that eating a small amount of chocolate after working out releases similar chemicals in your brain to those eventually released by the workout itself.

Try not to worry about what your friends are doing, either. Your parents were right when they encouraged you to ignore peer pressure. Finding a friend who’s also keen to exercise or learn a language is great, but there’s a difference between that and doing something just because all your friends are. If you aren’t doing it because you want to, then it isn’t going to stick.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by placing huge expectations on yourself just because the clock has ticked over to midnight. Make a change because you really want to. It’s far more likely to work out for you in the long run.

Here's How You Can Give Back To The Community When You Don't Have Money To Donate

Guaranteed to enrich you.

For many people, the holiday season is a time of giving. Giving presents to your friends and family, but also giving to charity.

But if donating time is more of your thing, we’ve rounded up some ways you can give back that cost nothing, except maybe a few pints of blood.

Days For Girls

If you’re good with a sewing needle, you can register to sew a Days for Girls kit. Days for Girls provides sanitary products to girls and women around the world, and relies on volunteers to sew the reusable shields and liners included in the kits. You can find a local group to join, or register as an independent sewist.

Blood Donations with the Red Cross

If you’re not any good with a sewing needle, but can handle being jabbed with one, consider donating blood this holiday season. One in three Australians will need blood in their lifetime, but only one in 30 Australians give blood each year. Demand for blood is only increasing, so if you’re eligible to donate but never have, consider making this your Christmas present to the world.

Help out at one of the Red Cross’ operations

The Red Cross is almost always looking for volunteers to help out in their stores around the country, especially in the lead-up to the busy Christmas period. They only ask for about four hours of your time each week, so it’s a great option for students or casual workers who aren’t working 9-5 days.

Or you can volunteer with the Red Cross Telecross Call Centre, where they call elderly people to check on their wellbeing, or as a Learner Driver Mentor, helping learners meet those driving hour requirements, or as a mentor or child minder.

Gig Buddies

If you’re based in Sydney and love going to concerts, joining Gig Buddies is a sound way to give back. You’re matched with a buddy who has a learning disability or autism and who shares your interests, and you and your buddy check out all Sydney has to offer, whether it’s a concert or a night out on the town.

Sydney Story Factory

If you’re passionate about the positive power of storytelling, consider volunteering with Sydney Story Factory. You don’t need to be a writer or a teacher to volunteer with them, just patient, kind, and imaginative. The majority of volunteers help tutor students, but there are other volunteer options including illustrating work, typing up students’ work, audio visual work, and staffing their retail space.

If this sounds like your kind of thing but you aren’t in Sydney, there’s most likely a local group doing similar work – for example, if you’re in Melbourne, check out 100 Story Building!

The Smith Family

The Smith Family is currently looking for thousands of volunteers to help put together toy and book packs to distribute to disadvantaged children around Australia in time for Christmas. They’re also after delivery day drivers, support staff to volunteer at the venue on delivery day, and people to help with stocktake and packing up.

The Welcome Dinner Project

If you’re an enthusiastic cook, this volunteering opportunity would be a fantastic way to show off your skills. The Welcome Dinner Project encourages connections between people who are new to Australia and locals over a meal, because nothing brings people together like food.

You can register to host a dinner, attend a dinner, or become a facilitator, depending on whether you’re better at cooking or eating.

Clean Up Australia

While Clean Up Australia Day takes place every year in March, the organisation is hard at work cleaning up sites around the country year-round. You can find a clean up site near you and register to participate in community clean ups on a recurring basis, or you can register a site that needs cleaning up.

And if plants are your thing, the Friends of Lane Cove National Park work within Lane Cove National Park on a regular basis to help restore the bushland to its native state. The Friends of the Royal National Park do similar work in the Royal National Park in Sydney’s south.

Fostering Animals

If your landlord allows pets (which they should if you’re in Victoria, thanks to the new laws), consider fostering an animal, especially if you’re considering getting a pet but don’t feel ready to commit to a decade or more of pet care.

If you’re in Sydney, you can foster through the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home or the Mini Kitty Commune. Both of those organisations are also after other kinds of volunteers, including admin work, transporting animals, or cat socialisation and kitten cuddles, which sounds perfect, please sign me up immediately!

If you’re in Victoria, you can foster through Forever Friends Animal Rescue or the Lost Dogs’ Home.

And if there’s an RSPCA near you, they also have foster care programs.

Giving back is a great way to spread joy during the holiday season, and it doesn’t have to cost you a cent. But it sure will leave you feeling hella enriched.

The Official Guide To The Best Christmas Episodes Of Your Favourite TV Shows

Or, more accurately, my favourite TV shows.

Everybody loves a good Christmas special. The British are really into Christmas ‘pantos‘, much to the confusion of the rest of the world, and the majority of shows that air in the second-half of the year include a special episode aired in the lead-up to Christmas.

If you ask Bojack Horseman they’re a cynical cash grab on the part of corporations. But if you ask me they’re a fun way to get into the festive spirit.

Dwight Christmas – The Office (US)

It’s the last Christmas episode of the show, but also one of the best. It teaches us about Dwight’s Pennsylvania Dutch family traditions, like Belsnickel, and his game of ‘impish or admirable’.

This culminates in Dwight whipping Jim out of the building but, in the spirit of the holiday, they eventually make up.

Meanwhile, Pete is trying to quote all of Die Hard in an effort to impress Erin, which is pretty clearly an homage to every guy you’ve met at a holiday party who thinks he’s unique by citing Die Hard as his favourite Christmas movie.

It’s one of the best episodes of the show post-Steve Carrell’s departure, and it’s my favourite Christmas episode by far.

The One With The Holiday Armadillo – Friends

This needs no explanation. Ross as the Holiday Armadillo, Chandler as Santa, and Joey as… Superman, all working together to teach Ben about Hanukkah. Beautiful.

Afternoon Delight – Arrested Development

The sixth episode of the show is also its first Christmas-themed episode, and it’s a doozy.

This episode includes:

  • Michael and Maeby, and later, George Michael and Lindsey, singing Afternoon Delight, not realising the meaning of the song until it’s too late
  • Gob shouting about the cost of his suit and increasing its value each time: “It’s a $6300 suit! Come on!”
  • Probably Buster’s best lines, when he returns from spending his first day in the army at an arcade with two plushies. After Lucille accuses him of being a coward, he brandishes the seal and says, “Would a coward have THIS?”, and goes on to explain that “These are my awards, mother, from army. The seal is for marksmanship and the gorilla is for sand-racing.”
  • Lucille being so high that she slowly crashes into Tobias, Gob, and the Banana Stand without realising.

It’s peak Arrested Development, and it’s perfect holiday viewing.

The Best Chrismukkah Ever – The OC

This was the OC’s first holiday episode, and it’s the one that gave us Chrismukkah, Seth Cohen’s hybrid holiday resulting from his being a child of both Judaism and Christianity, and also from his unwillingness to choose. Plus, the eight days of presents followed by one big day of presents certainly don’t hurt.

This episode also sees Anna and Summer fighting over Seth, complete with Summer in the iconic Wonder Woman costume, lassoing Seth in an effort to seduce him.

It also has Marissa being Marissa, which consists of her shoplifting and getting drunk. Her troubled ways see her sent to a mental health professional, where she meets Oliver, and… wait a second… this might actually be the worst Christmas episode ever. In case you can’t tell, I still haven’t gotten over the whole Oliver storyline.

At least Ryan is welcomed into the Cohens for his first Chrismukkah? But ugh, Oliver.

The Strike – Seinfeld

“… and now, you’re gonna hear about ‘em!”

This is the iconic episode that gave us Festivus, Frank Costanza’s response to the commercialisation of Christmas. It also features George giving his colleagues gifts of donations made in their names to ‘The Human Fund’, which doesn’t exist, and Kramer returning to work after a twelve-year strike, only to go on strike again after his boss won’t let him take Festivus off.

Festivus and Chrismukkah have both become part of our cultural consciousness, and for that, I am eternally grateful to Seth Cohen and Frank Costanza.

BoJack Horseman Christmas Special: Sabrina’s Christmas Wish

This episode-within-an-episode sees Todd and Bojack settle in to enjoy a Horsin’ Around Christmas special. It’s a chance to finally see a full episode of the show that made Bojack famous, and it’s a great spoof of 80s family sitcoms.

And despite dismissing Christmas specials as “cynical cash grabs from greedy corporations”, Bojack asks if they can watch the other eight Horsin’ Around Christmas specials. The Christmas spirit gets everyone eventually, even Bojack.

 

Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire – The Simpsons

This is probably one of the most iconic Christmas episodes ever, because it also happens to be the first ever episode of The Simpsons. 

The Simpsons hadn’t had time to become the show we all know and love at this point, but signs of that show can be found in this episode, as long as you don’t get distracted by the animation style and Homer’s voice.

The episode is very much centred on the family’s financial troubles, but Bart’s rebellious nature is there, on full display when he defies Marge’s wishes and gets a tattoo. Homer is less of a bumbling idiot than he would later become, and more of a dad trying to make ends meet. After betting the paycheque he earned from working as Santa on the greyhound races and losing, Homer adopts the dog he bet on – Santa’s Little Helper.

The fact that it’s the very first Simpsons episode and the episode that saw Santa’s Little Helper join the family is more than enough to give this episode the honour of one of the best Christmas episodes on television.

Da Kath and Kim Code

Australia can’t be left off this list, so naturally it comes down to the Kath & Kim 2005 telemovie.

Sharon gets engaged to a blog, Kim and Brett fight (obviously), Kath and Kel become backup dancers for Michael Bublé at Carols by Candlelight, and they get stalked by an albino man dressed in a robe, who they’re convinced is trying to kill them. It’s ridiculous, and terribly Australian, and it’s the perfect thing to watch on a hot Christmas Day when you don’t want to think about the fact white Christmases are impossible here.

Stan has made it even easier to binge the Christmas episodes of your favourite shows – just search ‘The Office’ or ‘Friends’, and a specially curated list of their Christmas episodes will appear! Just like magic.

So grab your relos, relax, and let your stomach recover after a massive festive feast with some of these brilliant Christmas specials.

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