With a new year comes the opportunity for new beginnings. For many of us, this chance for starting fresh comes in the form of a resolution. Oftentimes, it’s circling around our physical health or wellness: lose weight, work out more, eat healthier, quit smoking, start jogging, yadda yadda.
Our intentions are good; we want to tweak a part of our life to help us feel and maybe even look better. But sometimes we sacrifice our emotional wellness in the process. Let’s take a look at the most common New Year’s resolutions and shift them a little bit, into something that can benefit us not just on the outside, but also offer something to our internal selves.
For some of us, this may mean a couple of excess pounds around our middle. For others, this could mean a total body overhaul. Whichever is the case for you, start by asking yourself, “Why do I want to lose weight?” The direct and most obvious answers might be to look or feel better, and to increase body confidence. And while these are legit reasons, I wonder if we can ask why these reasons are important to us. What will losing 10 pounds give you? If the answer is “more confidence,” ask yourself if that confidence already exists in you. Truth is it probably does, just in another realm of your life. Remind yourself that your confidence and positive outlook on yourself is not contingent on those extra pounds disappearing. The sad truth is, even if you lose them, you might still struggle to feel good about yourself. Instead, bring some light onto parts of you that you already do feel good about, whether it’s a body part, a talent, or a personality trait. Know that you already have the potential to be confident and love yourself as is, and don’t let this self-love depend on whether the number on the scale is lower tomorrow than it was today.
Working out more
You might ask why this resolution even needs to be questioned. Who ever regretted working out more? And while I do believe that an active lifestyle would benefit nearly everyone, I also think that the reasoning behind why we do it should be questioned. Again, ask yourself what’s important about working out for you. If it makes you feel good, adds energy and vitality to your life, and you value caring for your body in this way, then by all means, go at it! If the reasons are more geared towards competitiveness, ego-boosting, insecurities, or shame that develops if you don’t work out, then maybe question the motive. Do it because it feels good and makes you happy. Don’t do it to be better than the next guy, or because of outside pressure. Because there will always be someone who can run faster or lift a heavier weight or do a more advanced pose. But if where others are in their journey doesn’t matter to you, and your focus is on where you are, then not only will you be a fit person, but you’ll also be a happy one.
Same reasoning applies to this one. Question why eating better is important to you, and you’ll discover whether it’s something you value. Do you eat healthy because it feeds and fuels your body in the right ways, which in return makes you a happier person? Or do you eat in a way that deprives your body for the sake of the results? If eating a certain way is making you thinner, but also making you miserable, then maybe reevaluate the decision. Also, if eating all-raw or vegan or paleo or [insert fad diet here] is feeding your ego more than it is your body, it might not be the right choice. Don’t eat a certain way to feel better than others who don’t choose to follow that particular path. And if you do choose to eat in a way that may vary from the societal norm, keep the judgment of others at bay. While you might believe not eating meat/dairy/anything other than kale may be the more righteous, healthier, and less detrimental diet, this might not be the truth for others, and that’s okay.
And finally, here are some resolutions that we can all benefit from keeping:
Love yourself more.
We could all use some more self-love in our lives. Practice being less harsh and critical of yourself. Instead of being judgmental of a mistake or setback, acknowledge that you are human and you are going to mess up sometimes (maybe a-lot-of-times). Then ask yourself how you can do better next time, without calling yourself a failure, loser, less-than, or incapable. Remove all the negative self-talk involved – it only makes a shitty situation shittier.
Practice compassion (with yourself and others).
We covered the self-compassion piece already, so now ask yourself how you’re managing your relationships with others. Be kind to everyone, even those who you don’t think deserve it. You only cause yourself more anxiety and pain by feeding into someone’s negative personality. Acknowledge those who are difficult with a little patience, compassion, and understanding. Shoe-on-the-other-foot scenarios are great for this. And if this isn’t panning out well for you, then just walk away. It is a practice of self-love to remove those who no longer serve a positive purpose in your life. You really don’t need to water those weeds.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
Say thank you for all the good things in your life every day, however many or few there might be. It is this practice that makes the bad times not so bad, and the good times even better. Gratitude can remind us that no matter how low we sink, there is always something to hold onto. And usually, when we look closely, there’s more than we even acknowledged.
Check-in with yourself.
This could be done with a 10-minute meditation in the morning or silently sipping your coffee at breakfast. Maybe it’s before you go to bed, when the house is quiet and dark. Check in with yourself and ask, “How am I today?” We so often race past our emotions in order to seem put together, and by doing this, we often end up repressing a lot. Emotions don’t go away when we ignore them. They linger until they find another way out. Cue a panic attack or emotional outburst or unexpected fits of crying. Instead of letting the pot boil over because you left the top on, create a metaphorical release of steam. Asking yourself “how am I doing today?” can do wonders for being able to process what you’re feeling in a healthy way. If you realize you’re sad, then cry. If you feel confused or frustrated, write in your journal or go for a walk. Angry? Maybe screaming into a pillow is what’s needed. None of these emotions are wrong. They just are.The more we acknowledge them as human and normal, the more we can become comfortable with feeling them as they come. We start allowing them to just be, and in turn we learn how to be with them.
Lastly, this new year commit to doing something good for yourself regularly, maybe even on a daily basis. This might take a bit of time and practice, but be motivated to commit to these constructive actions because of how much the Future You will appreciate it. Ask yourself, “If I were to look back on December 31st of this year, what would I be glad I did for myself?”
Look at January 1st as a fresh, new page on the story of your life (or maybe a new book altogether!) and ask yourself how you can make it the best one you’ve written yet.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.”
- T.S. Eliot