SPH317792 Sign in Desert by Mann, Robert (20th century); Private Collection; © Special Photographers Archive; Canadian,  out of copyright

Forty days & Forty nights

Ash Wednesday kicks off the season for reflection and restraint. Seek inspiration from the archive for your Lent resolutions.

Women in 'bikinis', from the Room of the Ten Dancing Girls (mosaic) Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily
Women in ‘bikinis’, from the Room of the Ten Dancing Girls (mosaic) Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily

 1 – Lose Weight & Get In Shape

Take solace in the fact that losing weight and getting in shape are universal obsessions…even the ancient Romans were preoccupied with their figures. If you go on a diet, make sure you eat enough so that you don’t –  in a fit of extreme hunger – fall for the latest quack remedy. Free, fat-reducing pills should be avoided at all costs!

Left: Ad for 'Fell's Reducing Tablets' Right:  Ad for 'Dr. Jeanne Walter's Famous Rubber Garments'
Left: Ad for ‘Fell’s Reducing Tablets’
Right: Ad for ‘Dr. Jeanne Walter’s Famous Rubber Garments’

2 – Kick That Bad Habit

The desire to quit smoking and drinking usually top the list of the kick-the-bad-habit resolutions. If you are one of the unfortunate souls who has decided to quit both at the same time, may we offer a suggestion? Don’t!  In a weak moment when you really want a fag, having a drink may be the perfect antidote. Save the temperance for 2016 and enjoy some smoking adverts from days gone by

Left: Poster advertising 'Job' cigarette papers, 1896, Mucha Right: Admiral cigarette, early Edison film, 1897 / Bridgeman Footage
Left: Poster advertising ‘Job’ cigarette papers, 1896, Mucha
Right: Admiral cigarette, early Edison film, 1897

3 – Learn Something New

Yearning to learn French? Aching to put on those dancing shoes and learn tango? Sign up and take the opportunity to check something off your list. Plus, the activities will occupy your mind and body as you are heroically trying to kick that bad habit (see below). More Illustrations from ‘A French Alphabet Book of 1814’

Illustrations from 'A French Alphabet Book of 1814', pub. by Charles Plante Fine Arts, 1814
Illustrations from ‘A French Alphabet Book of 1814’, pub. by Charles Plante Fine Arts, 1814

4 – Enjoy Life More

This year, you’ve resolved to seek out more fun and adventure in your daily life. So get out your map, close your eyes and stick in a pin to decide where to go in 2015.  If you find yourself in Egypt and someone asks if you’d like to race a camel? Sure! You might look silly and you may be too embarrassed to laugh, but you’ve no doubt contributed to someone else’s joy. For more inspiration on Egyptian activities see illustrations from The Light Side of Egypt” by Lance Thackeray. Priceless.

Left: Cup and Ball-the camel's favourite game Right: Stern Reality; or, Last but not Least.
Left: Cup and Ball-the camel’s favourite game
Right: Stern Reality; or, Last but not Least.

 5 – Reduce Stress

Having a hard time managing your work and life stress, particularly without the aid of an occasional drink or your daily smoke breaks? You’ve signed up for an 8-week meditation course, but why not adopt a dog or cat in the meantime? Stroking Fido and Whiskers can reduce blood pressure (really, we’re serious). Plus, who wouldn’t love coming home to a pair of dark brown eyes looking at you like you are the BEST person ever.

Woman Lying on a Bench, 1913 by Carl Larsson
Woman Lying on a Bench, 1913 by Carl Larsson

6 – Spend More Time With Loved Ones

Spending more time with friends and family is on most people’s New Year’s to-do lists. Try to find activities you can do together. Better yet, find something active and new and you’ve managed to combine three resolutions into one. If you can manage to lose weight and learn something new with your loved ones, we call that a win-win-win.

Boy And His Dog Dive Together,  Underwood Archives
Boy And His Dog Dive Together, Underwood Archives

7 – Get Out Of Debt

You know the saying, ‘you can never be too skinny or too rich.’ You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has not resolved to dig themselves out of debt or to save money this year. Though most of us are not living lavish lifestyles, there are still some areas of the budget we could trim in order to set ourselves up for later. How about curbing your daily latte habit, or bringing a lunch to work instead of eating out? A successful bid to reduce expenses will help de-stress your life and will make it much easier to do all the fun, new things you’ve resolved to do this year!

Left: Athenian tetradrachma with the Owl of Athens, Greek Right: The Money Lender and his Wife by Quentin Massys
Left: Athenian tetradrachma with the Owl of Athens, Greek
Right: The Money Lender and his Wife by Quentin Massys

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