When you think about making a News Year’s Resolution, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Excitement and motivation? Maybe the New Year symbolizes all the positive things that you want to do or change you want to make. Or, perhaps thinking about all the things you SHOULD do or HAVE to do floods you with anxiety, panic and dread? Well, whether you are in the “camp excitement” or “camp dread,” my advice to anyone looking to make changes in the New Year, is to NOT MAKE A NEW YEARS RESOLUTION!
A lot of the research that’s been done over the past several years discourages people from making “New Year’s Resolutions.” Most of us start strong and then slowly fizzle off within the first few weeks and months. For most people, failure to keep resolutions are almost as common as making them. While 45% of us make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% manage to keep them. There are many reasons why people fail to keep their resolutions, including timing (January has historically been shown to be one of the worst months to start making any significant changes), unrealistic goals or expectations, lack of support or being too tough on ourselves.
Often when people fail to keep their New Year’s Resolutions, they end up experience feeling of guilt, failure, self-loathing, depression or anxiety. So my advice to anyone looking to make positive changes going into the new year is to fist throw away the idea of making a “New Year’s Resolution.” Change that “all or nothing thinking,” where if you “keep” your resolution you are a “winner,” and if you don’t strictly adhere to your resolution, you immediately become a “failure.” So rather than making a resolution, where you vow to make a strict change with very little room for error, embrace a new concept; A New Year, A New You!
I like thinking of the New Year, as a time for positive changes and opportunities. Setting one goal may make you feel better in one area of your life, but what I like to encourage people to do, is to look at life changes that can not only improve one specific area (like physical health), but look to makes changes that will positively affect ALL aspects of your life. Look to nurture the mind, body and soul! Also, remember to have compassion for yourself. You’re not perfect, and there are going to be days when you’ll mess up. But guess what? That’s totally okay. Perfection is overrated anyway.
Below are 10 positive changes to start thinking about making in the new year to achieve overall better wellness:
- Engage in more self-care: I can’t stress this enough! Engaging in more self-care is one of the best lifestyles changes you can make. This doesn’t mean going to the gym five days a weeks or vowing to completely eliminating carbs from your life. This means finding time for you, when you can. This can be as simple as doing yoga from home once a week or taking a long, hot shower without any distraction from the outside world. Increasing self-care doesn’t need to be complicated or ridged. Find time to enjoy the little things and take care of yourself!
- Practice gratitude: Gratitude is the attitude! There’s always something to be grateful for — a healthy body, a home, a job, the sunshine, the flowers, friends, family. Instead of counting all the things that go wrong, count all the way things go right and watch things transform. Problems turn into opportunities and abundance becomes the name of the game. By focusing on what we have, we get more of that back from the universe, plus it feels good to be grateful! You can even start each day by making a list of things you’re grateful for in a gratitude journal. And don’t forget to tell your loved ones how thankful you are for them!
- Learn to say yes… To yourself: Nothing can hold you back from living the life you want quite like fear, but you don’t have to let it. Start to say yes more and allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone and discover a whole new side to yourself. Saying “yes” more is not about agreeing to things you don’t want to do, but about not letting fear stop you from trying things you have always wanted to do. Do you want to go for that promotion? Go for it! Want to move to Europe? Do it! Want to take a kickboxing class or hike a mountain? Put on your gym shorts and get to it! Life is not about the “what-ifs” or “could haves,” so start saying no to fear, and yes to living.
- Surround yourself with things that make you happy: If it doesn’t serve you, let it go. I repeat: If it doesn’t serve you, let it go. Life is too short and way too uncertain to spend it surrounded by things that drain you. So we invite you to focus on things that make you feel loved, fulfilled, and happy! Surrounding yourself with people who fulfill you and not deplete you is vital. So why not try to surround yourself with only these sorts of people and things in the new year?
- Move your body more and feel your feelings more: Have you ever been to a yoga or fitness class and all of a sudden you feel super emotional, like maybe you even start crying? It sounds crazy, but it happens! Our emotions live in our bodies, not our heads, and when we start to move our bodies, sometimes these feelings bubble to the surface. As scary as it can be, feeling your feelings is vital. One way to do this is through movement! This can be anything: a yoga class, an intense workout with weights at the gym, or even a long run.
- Give up defensiveness: Defensiveness is a great defense mechanism. It allows us to blame a cruel boss or a meddling co-worker for a bad work environment. It enables us to see a cluttered home as the fault of a spouse or children, and fights with loved ones as the product of those loved ones’ shortcomings. Yet defensiveness has an ugly side: it blinds us to our own role in our problems. It prevents us from becoming better people. It makes our relationships difficult and one-sided. If you want better relationships this year, resolve to give up defensiveness. That means diligently working to see your own role in every conflict or concern you have. Don’t wait for someone else to change before you’re willing to. Ultimately, you can only change yourself. By looking inward and making small changes in each relationship, you may begin to see massive improvements in your social and intimate life.
- Get a good night’s sleep: The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night for adults, but according to the most recent data available, Americans aren’t hitting the mark. Skimping on Zs can harm you in a variety of ways. People with sleep deprivation are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, slowing motor functions, and mood swings. Don’t think about sleep as something that you just “do,” think of it as something you “want.” Set a sleep schedule and try your best to stick to that schedule, even on the weekends. If you decide to go to bed at 10:00, then shut everything down before 10:00. Put away the phone, games, and laptops and shut off the TV!
- Find an outlet for your stress, and when you need it, use it: I like to think of people as sponges. We have the capability to absorb an incredible amount of “stuff.” Like a sponge, you may not realize how heavy or full it is by just looking at it…. Until it starts to leak or you pick it up and feel its weight. As we go through out our days, we absorb a lot of stress, holding onto it like a sponge, until eventually we get too heavy and start to leak. Finding an outlet for our stress can help us to “ring ourselves out” on a daily basis, so we don’t get too heavy. This might be going for a walk, listening to music, having a friend to vent to, journaling or even taking a kickboxing class. Find out outlet and plug into it!
- Live in the moment: If you spend your life perennially looking forward to a future in which you’re thinner, healthier, have more money, and a better person, you’ll never get to enjoy the present moment. There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement and plans for the future. But if that is all you can think about, you’ll miss out on the wonderful moments life has to offer today. Work on cultivating mindfulness: the ability to live in the present moment. This can be particularly helpful during frustrating moments, such as when your child throws a temper tantrum or you have to wait in line at the bank. Focusing on the sounds and sights you see, the positive aspects of the current challenge, or simply what it feels like to be alive in your skin right now can help you see value even in frustrating moments.
- Love yourself just the way you are: You will not be happier if you lose 10 pounds, quit smoking, or start a new relationship. Sure, there might be an initial rush, but happiness does not come from achieving distant future goals. Indeed, believing that it does can be an impediment to happiness in the here and now, particularly if you fail to meet your goals month after month, year after year. You deserve to feel good about yourself right now, no matter where you are on your journey. You deserve happiness now. If you struggle to believe that, it’s time to seek help from a therapist to understand why.
By: Amanda Keller, LCSW-R