Apparently today is the day when we are most likely to abandon our new year’s resolutions, the fervent enthusiasm with which they were set tapering away as the harsh reality of the post-Christmas mood sets in. And as they are discarded, they leave behind a sense of guilt and disappointment.
New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. And perhaps rightly so. For so often they are seen as things one must do in order to be better. I must lose weight this year. I should do some exercise. I ought to give up crisps. And chocolate. And wine. (Just me, then?!)
The problem with resolutions is that they are so often set up to fail. They can be too demanding. They are often imbued with negativity, focused on correcting actions or behaviours, they are frequently based upon things that we don’t actually want to do, and the tactic selected to meet the goal isn’t always the right one. For example, whilst I might want to feel fit enough to run around a park with my daughter, I really don’t want to join a gym.
And when we don’t achieve these resolutions that we established so keenly as the old year faded away, we end up feeling frustrated, as if we’ve let ourselves down. What a rubbish way to start the new year.
There is something powerful about a new year. It allows us the opportunity to take a new perspective, our focus reset after the Christmas break. And with this freshness, there is scope for us to think about what we want to do in the coming year – not necessarily what we should do. This year I’m thinking of my ‘resolutions’ as ‘kindnesses’, goals that I want to do for myself which will increase my happiness and ultimately my wellbeing.
Far too often, resolutions require us to take huge leaps and make drastic changes to our routine, which aren’t sustainable. But setting out things we’d like to do in the year ahead doesn’t have to be so pressurising: just doing one small thing can make a massive impact. Plus, these are more likely to be achievable and increase our joy at our successes. Incremental steps towards perhaps bigger goals are frequently more sustainable, and this approach allows for learning and change along the way.
What’s more, we need to tell ourselves that if we don’t do anything, that’s ok. Because it’s about being kind to ourselves. We are too harsh on ourselves, we expect too much of ourselves – and setting steadfast resolutions can sometimes be just another way in which we place onerous pressure on ourselves.
So, whatever you decide you want to do this year, whatever steps you take to be happy, be kind to yourselves. And I hope your year ahead is truly happy.