Ah, 2022. It sounds so futuristic, but in reality, it’s just a few weeks away. So let’s talk research about New Year’s goals.

And we should probably gab about Omicron, which also sounds like something weird and futuristic — but, as you’ve likely heard by now, it’s a SARS-CoV-2 variant. *Insert all the groans here.*

Plus, we go deep on meaningful conversations. Let’s dive in.

The new year is comin’ in hot. I wish you all a good year ahead. As January 1 edges closer, you might be making those New Year’s resolutions. I’m personally not a fan — mainly because, if I’m setting a goal, I like to start ASAP. I also think the all-or-nothing concept of some resolutions can be a pitfall, at least for me.

But I did dig up some research on New Year’s rezzies for you, in case you like them. And here’s what I found: According to one study, people who make approach-oriented goals tend to have more success in sticking to their resolutions than those who make avoidance-oriented ones.

For example, it might be harder for someone who regularly drinks soda to say they’ll never have one again after New Year’s Eve (that would be an avoidance goal). Instead, that same person might set a goal of drinking more water — perhaps the pretty sparkling kind — during the day (that would be an approach goal). And, by default, they might naturally start drinking less soda. Kind of a win-win there.

So, how’s the weather? Yeah, I don’t really love small talk, either. And research shows that many people actually prefer deeper and more meaningful convos, even with strangers (*gasp!*).

We tend to opt for small talk because we think going for the deep stuff will get awkward. But will it really? The truth is, probably not.

Researchers from the American Psychological Association conducted 12 studies with 1,800 participants. They asked the participants to engage in either small talk or discussion of meaningful topics, and they found that people overestimated the awkwardness of either type of conversation. Participants also expressed feelings of connectedness and enjoyment from the deeper dives.

The researchers say having meaningful chats can enhance well-being. So don’t be afraid to give a deeper topic than the weather a go. How about that Omicron?

I say “OMG” because it seems Omicron is all the news is talking about right now. Omicron (also called B.1.1.529, if you prefer that sexy lingo) is a SARS-CoV-2 variant.

It was first detected in mid-November. And on November 26, the World Health Organization labeled it a variant of concern (VOC). (And here we were thinking “VOC” stood for “volatile organic compound.” But that’s when we’re talking about other *super fun* things like furniture off-gassing. Yum!)

But now Omicron might have come along and whispered to Delta, ‘Hold my beer.’

What do you need to know about this potential bad boy? Scientists are still learning about Omicron. What they do know is that it features more than 30 mutations on its spike protein. By comparison, that’s about twice the amount as on the Delta variant. But what does that even mean?

All viruses develop mutations. Some mutations can impact the transmissibility of a virus or the severity of illness the virus causes. We’ve seen Delta be much more extra on these fronts than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. But now Omicron might have come along and whispered to Delta, “Hold my beer.”

We just don’t quite know how Omicron is going to behave yet. Researchers are studying it, and we will know in time.

Experts believe Omicron is now responsible for up to 90 percent of new cases in Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa. Younger people in their 20s and 30s are experiencing moderate to severe disease. And data from one South African hospital shows that 65 percent of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, while much of the rest are partially vaccinated.

Call me a broken record, but it’s a good time to get that vaccination if you haven’t already. And if you’re already vaccinated, get your booster when you’re eligible. Remember, everyone 18 and up is now eligible for a booster. You can get one 6 months after completing a Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after getting a Johnson & Johnson jab.

Remember that kids 5 and up are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine as well.

At the end of November, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that for the sixteenth week in a row, child cases of COVID-19 tallied above 100,000. Among states reporting data, cumulative hospitalization rates for those under 18 range from about 2 to 4 percent, and cumulative mortality rates for kids are under 1 percent.

Keep in mind that kids can develop symptoms of long-haul COVID-19 after the initial acute infection has passed. You can read more about long COVID in kids here.

In case our current world isn’t sci-fi enough for you, Greatist book editor and copy editor Naomi Farr rounded up the best fantasy reads of 2021.

And now for something sweet: Greatist editor Samantha Kostaras did the dirty work of sampling all the Starbucks holiday drinks to see how they stacked up. But just because she did the taste test doesn’t mean you can’t sample them all too.

Happy holidays and new year, everyone! Stay safe and healthy out there.