Alright, I’m going to shoot it to you straight. I hate New Year’s resolutions. I mean they are fantastic in theory, all sparkly and shiny and optimistic, promising a better future version of ourselves and our lives. So very enticing!
And then they become so very disappointing and discouraging when year after year they prove unattainable. They give us one more thing to feel lousy about when they fall to the wayside and end up forgotten as the year unfolds.
It goes a little something like this: Set an ambitious and well-intended New Year’s resolution. Adhere to the plan diligently for 5ish days. Slip up once or twice. Make a half-hearted effort to get back on track. Lose interest. Give up entirely.
Amiright or amiright?!?
As I see it, there are a couple of fatal flaws in the process of setting of New Year’s resolutions.
Flaw #1: Impulsive and reactionary plans.
So you let yourself indulge a bit too much in the holiday sweets. You decide in a hot second that the answer is an expensive gym membership. Nevermind that you don’t like gym workouts, just ignore that critical piece of information.
Antidote: Be intentional and thoughtful.
Instead, how would it feel to be thoughtful and intentional? Consider your last year in its entirety. Identify some habits that are no longer serving you, some ways in which you would like to live better. Think on it. Sit with it. Consider any emotional attachments to these patterns, look for root causes, set resolutions that speak to these deeper themes.
Flaw #2: Unrealistic and overwhelming goals.
You don’t like how much time you spend watching TV, perusing social media or online window-shopping. You decide that the solution is to ban all screen time in your home. All the screens, all the time, everywhere. Yep, all of it.
Antidote: Keep your goals simple, realistic and attainable.
Be gentle with yourself. Be realistic and honest. Hesitate before grabbing at the all-or-nothing quick fix that won’t stick. Keep the goal simple. Make sure it is sustainable. And leave room for self-acceptance of your limitations and your circumstances, your missteps and restarts.
Flaw #3: We beat ourselves up by focusing on our “bad” behaviors.
Focus on everything you don’t like about yourself or your lifestyle, now try to muster the energy and stamina to remove these things from your life cold turkey.
Antidote: Instead look to add and incorporate healthy, life-giving practices.
Look, I’m not saying it’s not commendable to want to quit smoking or lose weight, stop eating sugar, cut back on caffeine, quit gossiping, or lower your alcohol consumption, but that negative-focused approach can really shift the energy of the resolution. It shines a spotlight on what we are not, how we have failed ourselves, where we went wrong. What if instead the aim was to fill our days with additions of healthy, beautiful behaviors and habits? Maybe a bit more leafy greens at lunch? How about a little morning meditation or daily fresh air? Could we fill up our lives so fully with healthy self-care practices that there was no longer room for the habits we would like to kick? I would think it’s worth a shot!
Bri Dunbar offers individual, couples and family therapy to encourage the health and healing of the mind and body. Therapy utilizes traditional psychological theories and techniques while also incorporating yogic concepts and mindfulness skills.