Going into a new year, it's easy to make resolutions that are too tough on yourself -- and hardly realistic.
However, there are many practical goals that you can aim for in a new year that not only are beneficial to you, but also to others.
The Bee asked members of the area's faith community -- Christians, Hindus, Muslims and others -- for their suggestions going into 2010. They're compiled in a list of 12, maybe one to shoot for each month.
Memorize a song
Wilbur Daniels, singer with The Chordsmen Gospel Quartet, says learning a song and taking time to sing it daily can raise your spirits. He suggests trying a Southern gospel song.
"Even if you do not profess to be a Christian, these wonderful songs can work wonders to lift your spirit and attitude," he says.
The Rev. Janette Marie Freeman, minister at the Oneness Center in northeast Fresno, says "quieting the mind," such as simply relaxing or thinking about something positive, is worth the effort.
"It pays dividends in greater health, increased intuition and peace of mind," she says.
Cut down on waste
Connie Young, a Green Sanctuary committee member at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, says practicing alternative energy use can save the Earth -- and more.
"Every barrel of oil we waste is stolen from future generations," she says. "The time to plan and act wisely is now."
The Rev. Joe Pettit, pastor of Quail Lake Community Church in Clovis, says forgiving "freely and quickly" has many benefits.
"It keeps you from falling into a life of bitterness," he says. "It opens the possibility of reconciliation with those who have hurt you. It is what God commands us to do. It allows you to really live again."
Rabbi Levy Zirkind of Chabad of Fresno says you can choose to love others as yourself.
"You honor others with the dignity that you want reciprocated," he says. "Through positive actions, we can and will change the world, making it a godly place of peace and harmony."
Repay a kindness
Bryan Martin, pastor of St. Patrick's Community Church, believes many people received "something of value" in the past year despite the economic crisis. Now, people should pay it forward.
"A word of encouragement, an act of kindness, a bag of groceries, some comfort -- they're great spiritual activities for the new year," he says.
Touch a life
Fermin A. Whittaker, executive director of California Southern Baptist Convention in Fresno, says many people are feeling a sense of hopelessness. So do your best to have a positive effect on others.
"People are tired and confused," he says, suggesting one way to help is to offer words of encouragement to them, particularly the homeless.
Feed the hungry
Kathryn Weakland, director of development/communication at the Poverello House, says to work toward stamping out hunger.
You can volunteer to serve or prepare food at shelters for the homeless or collect nonperishable food items that are distributed to the needy.
Remember the ill
Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, says to do something nice to those who are hospitalized or ill.
One way, he says, is to visit them -- and listen to what they have to say. Your visit not only can raise the person's spirits, but also have a positive effect on their family members and other caregivers, he says.
The Rev. Larry Arce, chief executive office at the Fresno Rescue Mission, says it's important that people share love, wisdom and strength with others.
But, he says, they have the most effect when they're done with a sense of humility.
"Try to be humble in all your endeavors," he says.
Look past daily grind
Monika Joshi, a volunteer at Hindu Temple of Fresno, says looking past the ups and downs in everyday life can enable you to better understand your purpose.
"It is very easy to get caught up in the material world," she says.
Have faith like a child
Jamie Barker, director of Dakota House faith-based ministry, says to look at everyday life through a child's eyes because they are so trusting.