It is natural for each of us to look at the beginning of a new year almost as a new lease on life. It’s perfectly normal to want to put the previous year behind us and start fresh with a clean slate. However, instead of writing out a definitive list of resolutions that we vow to do or not to do after December 31st, it may be better – though admittedly more challenging – to take a different, a more mindful and thoughtful approach to the new year as we look back on the previous one.
Every December I find myself fighting the urge to start a list of resolutions for the coming year. I never want to become one of “those” people who start out with the best of intentions only to find they’ve all fallen by the wayside come February as my carb intake increases, the frequency of my workouts decrease, and those good intentions never fully materialize. For me, resolving each January to be a better person implies that I will never be good enough.
Maybe I am good enough and maybe I am where I need to be right now. Maybe it’s time I learn to appreciate what I already have, flabby tummy and all. Whether it’s January, June, or October, today it’s time for me to practice self-love, acceptance, and self-care – no “reward system” attached or deadlines to follow. Quality of life should not be measured in steps walked on the treadmill at the gym with a glazed old-fashioned donut as my prize for each additional mile incurred.
Mmm….donuts. But, I digress.
If there is anything I resolve in the coming new year it’s to avoid the trap of feeling nothing but self-loathe and guilt with each unfulfilled resolution – and that’s why I refuse to make any. To me, the word “resolution” itself feels like a promise or an expectation that I may never be able to live up to. Why put that pressure on myself? Why should you put that pressure on yourself when there are things we can all do that may make us a little happier, and a little less harried, all while being realistic instead of super-human?
A More Practical Approach to Ringing in the New Year
Here are some practical suggestions and changes of perspective that you might use to make a more meaningful and conscientious beginning to the new year:
- Reflect – really think in earnest about the past year. Appreciate everything that happened, no matter how wonderful or how awful. Each experience builds on the next and shapes you as a person. Whether you realize it or not, everything you go through helps you grow as a human being, as painful as something may be while you are experiencing it.
- Express gratitude – try to look at the past year as half-full instead of half-empty by thinking about what you are thankful for. It’s almost too easy to over-generalize, look back and think “Last year was HORRIBLE. Things are going to be different from now on!” No matter what hand fate may have dealt you in the past, chances are really high that if you put some effort into it, you can come up with several things – some big, some small – that you can give thanks for. Did you make a new friend? Was your doctor able to decrease one of your meds? Were you able to shed two or three pounds even if your goal was ten? Were you able to take an impromptu trip to the beach when you were least expecting it, but needed it most?
- Let go – try letting go of the things that cause you to struggle. We all carry baggage that can weigh us down and is often better off left at the station. Explore books or blogs that support your beliefs and values and help you embrace a new outlook. Consider seeing a therapist or counselor to help nudge you in the right direction and out of old patterns and habits – there is no shame in asking for help. While letting go of people may sound mean, it can actually improve your well-being. Do you have a friend who brings you down or constantly belittles you? Consider speaking candidly to that person about how they make you feel or even consider spending less time with them in order to focus on a healthier and happier you.
- Gather your team – speaking of people … who makes you feel worthy, loved, or leaves you smiling? After you’ve identified these people and honed in on the members of your “crew,” consider ways to stay connected to these people throughout the year when you’re feeling up to it. Schedule coffee dates, lunch with the girls, or even a quarterly or semi-annual retreat somewhere where you can all get together to blow off some steam and have a little fun.
- Set intentions, not resolutions – look at the big picture. Who do you want to be? Do you want to be someone who can appreciate the small things in life? Do you want to be someone who embraces – instead of shuns – change? Do you want to slow down a bit and take things more in stride? Set some small and realistic goals without attachment. So you don’t get to everything on your “to-do” list … so what? You had the intention and were open to exploring your options, and that in itself is more than half the battle! Learn to appreciate the fact that you tried and will either try again or make some adjustments along the way. Just take things one day at a time instead of all at once – we can’t predict the future.
- Consider doing nothing – yep, that’s right, I said it. If the previous year (or longer) was exhausting, it may be the perfect time to just appreciate being where you are now, who you are now, and give yourself a break. I know I often have a hard time just sitting still – more often in the emotional sense – and I often have to fight myself just to let things be. While this may seem like a battle hard-fought, surrendering to just being and appreciating yourself as someone worthy of love – including self-love – and who has been through a lot is often the best thing you can do for yourself. The rest will fall into place accordingly. See? Even while you’re busy doing nothing, you’re really doing something!
In the long-run, you really have no one to answer to except for yourself anyway. More often than not, however, we are our own worst critic and beat ourselves up the most for not meeting our goals. Treat yourself as you would a good friend instead – you wouldn’t harp on your BFF for not meeting some unrealistic expectation, unexpectedly getting sick, or making the wrong decision, would you? I hope not. Treat yourself with the same kind of loving care as you would someone else and take the pressure off to radically change everything – I bet you’re probably pretty darn good just as you are anyway if you really take the time to think about it. By avoiding the resolution trap and forcing change that you may not even need to make right now, you’ll learn greater acceptance and in turn, self-love. Back to top.
Happy New Year!
Babauta, L. (n.d.). Sacred bow: An intentional way to close out the year & start the new year. Retrieved from: https://zenhabits.net/sacred-bow/
Eisler, M. (2018). 5 alternatives to making new year’s resolutions. Retrieved from: https://chopra.com/articles/5-alternatives-to-making-new-year%E2%80%99s-resolutions
Article written by: Liz Heintz
Liz Heintz is a technical and creative writer who received her BA in Communications, Advocacy, and Relational Communications from Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She most recently worked for several years in the healthcare industry. A native of San Francisco, California, Liz now calls the beautiful Pacific Northwest home.
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