Updated: Jan 10
Well, 2021 is here! Given all that was thrown to you in 2020, what will you do differently?
After all the frantic activity in the lead-up to and during the festive season, many of us are finally able to sit back, relax and enjoy some well-deserved down-time.
It’s the time of year when we often use this relaxation to reflect on the year that’s just passed, and consider the things we’d like to achieve for ourselves in the one to come.
For a new year brings hope, excitement and anticipation – the chance for a fresh start and a new beginning.
So, we may identify things we'd like to change about our lives and set a path to achieve these changes in the form of making a New Year’s Resolution.
That can be easier said than done!
There are three defining steps to crafting a New Year’s Resolution that’s meaningful and effective to bring real life benefits
(Oxford Dictionary): A Firm Decision to Do or Not to Do Something
The dictionary definition of a resolution is straightforward enough.
For many of us, a New Year’s Resolution is an intention to make changes to improve our lives and to set a goal to work towards throughout the year that will achieve this change.
Typically, after the festive excess, most of these goals are aimed at increasing levels of happiness in our lives by making physical improvements such as weight loss, taking up exercise, or giving up smoking.
They’re articulated by beliefs such as:
“If I lose weight, I’ll be happier because I’ll feel more confident and attractive;”
“If I exercise more, I’ll happier because I’ll lose weight”
“If I stop smoking, I will be happier because I will have more money, I won’t smell awful and I won’t be damaging my health”
(Oxford Dictionary): A Surprising and Previously Unknown Fact That Has Been Disclosed to Others
However – and perhaps unsurprisingly – most people who make a New Year’s Resolution are usually unable to sustain the change past mid-January.
What often happens is that people not only resume their previous, undesired behaviour, but actually increase that behaviour.
For example, if you’re like me, the minute I tell myself I’m not allowed to eat something or that I should be eating smaller meals, I head straight to the nearest packet of Tim-Tams!
This is usually because the goals we set - although well-intentioned – are mostly not particularly realistic.
And because they’re unrealistic they set us up to fail, which can actually decrease our happiness and lead to feelings of failure, shame, despair, and anxiety.
These feelings may even drive us towards further unhelpful behaviours to compensate such as binge-eating, overspending, or drinking too much alcohol, which may offer some relief in the moment, but may have serious consequences in the longer-term.
So, sometimes setting rigid rules for ourselves gets in the way of us fully engaging in the present and making the most of what we have in the here and now.
We can become so focussed on achieving an unachievable goal, that we miss out on all the other opportunities and experiences life has to offer.
Alternatively, we may achieve our goal, but our 'success' may have unexpected consequences in other areas of life.
For example, our rigid rules about eating and exercise may get in the way of us being able to enjoy fully participating in social events.
We may notice increasing levels of stress and anxiety as we hold tightly to our goal, and our relationships may suffer.
(Oxford Dictionary): A Dramatic and Wide-Reaching Change in Conditions, Attitudes, or Operation
So where does all this leave you?
How can you achieve revolution in your New Year’s Resolutions to break through and make really positive changes in your life?
A first step can be to contemplate the personal qualities you value and the things that are most important to you.
This may involve deep reflection and a re-evaluation of the things that have been guiding your thoughts and actions until now.
Take A Different Outlook
If, for example, your resolution is based on your values around Health and Wellbeing, consider what exactly it would mean for you to experience new health and wellbeing.
Wellbeing can be defined in many different ways - but at its most basic level, being well means the absence of illness, both physically and mentally.
Being able to survive and enjoy a quality of life means having sufficient food, water and shelter, being part of a community, having a purpose.
It doesn’t have to mean restrictive eating plans, or punishing exercise regimes.
Can you broaden your definition of health, and are there kind and compassionate ways to nurture your health and wellbeing? Ask yourself:
What does a healthy lifestyle even look like for you?
What small things can you commit to every day that will enhance your ability to live according to this value?
If you were to treat yourself kindly, what would this look like on a daily basis?
What things would you bring into your life, and what things would you let go of?
New Daily Routines
You might choose to begin each day with a period of stillness; focussing on breathing gently, being aware of your breath flowing in and out of your body.
You may like to visualise yourself and the actions you take during the day, taking care of yourself to mindfully move your body throughout the day:
Notice how it feels to gently stretch your body
Feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk outside,
Be aware of the sensation of increased blood flowing through your body.
And at the end of the day, you might pause to note a few of the things you are grateful for, or some of the small achievements of the day:
Getting up and making the bed
Arranging to meet a friend for coffee
Enjoying some relaxing time amid nature
All these small day-to-day activities that you participate in every day can have wide-reaching impacts on your life.
As you continue to achieve, feel content and notice the benefits of these small things each day, you may find yourself incorporating more of them to enrich your daily life.
Living a Full, Rich and Meaningful Life
Choosing to live in alignment with our values is revolutionary, because it means we are making active choices in every moment about how we want to be in the world.
This makes us prepared to experience the richness that a full life brings, both the pleasant and the unpleasant.
There’s no need to set huge, often unrealistic goals, and no need to wait until you have achieved them in order to begin living your life according to your deeply-held values.
You can live a full, rich and meaningful life right now.
Speak with Linda
If you're feeling stuck, have a chat or make an appointment with Linda Mitten. Linda offers In-Person Individual Adult Counselling in Port Macquarie and Tele-Counselling via Zoom.