We’re moving swiftly towards that time of year when diet companies and gym bosses start rubbing their hands, eagerly awaiting the influx of those who’ve pledged that 2022 is the year they will change for good.
But before you decide all the things that you’ll be doing (or not doing) once the clock strikes midnight, I’d love to invite you to buck the trend, and not make any. Not because the overwhelming majority fall at the first hurdle, but because perhaps of all years, this is the year you could offer yourself something different, something you can keep up, and something that will benefit you more than a lapsed membership ever will.
So why stand resolute against resolutions? Making resolutions is a tradition we often find ourselves falling in line with without question. It’s the sense that by drawing a line under a year, we can draw a line under a habit, a mindset, or a waistline.
New Year’s resolutions promote the feeling that we can challenge and change habits overnight. The danger with this is that we completely overlook the fact that many of our habits start as coping mechanisms (for example, drinking to numb painful feelings, or becoming sedentary because we feel lonely).
Habits are formed over time, each one with its own story and purpose. So, yes, whilst they may no longer serve you or slot into the image of how you like to see yourself, it’s a huge ask upon yourself to be able to nudge it deftly aside come midnight. Growth is not linear, and habits are best approached with a recipe of care, planning, compassion, guidance and accountability, rather than a cut throat end that risks sweeping the valuable emotions that sparked them under the proverbial rug.
So, if your pen is wavering over the annual list in the name of tradition, because you (like me) like lists, what can you do instead of the same-old?
Don’t see midnight as a new start
Approach growth as a bumpy upward hill that has its dips and turns. I always use the phrase ‘not all of the time, but more of the time’ when trying to address or change habits. It takes our humanness and ever-changing resources into account, meaning we’re less likely to feel like failures when we fall off the wagon.
Question the behaviour you’re trying to change
Instead of holding the resolution in tight grip, be inquisitive! I’m not encouraging you to go all Freud on yourself, but when we address the feelings and beliefs that are driving our desire to change things.
What sits behind a pledge to lose weight for example? Perhaps you feel uncomfortable in your clothing, or you’ve recognised that you’re reaching for food to comfort yourself. Maybe you fantasise that when you hit a number on the scales, life will feel easier and happier. Might it actually be your self-esteem that needs your attention, rather than the juice detox discount voucher that has rocked up in your inbox? Perhaps feelings of loneliness need the love, rather than forcing a love for the gym. Sometimes when we turn our attention to the thing fuelling the fire, the flames are easier to tackle.
Set intentions, not rules
Set an intention, a word or a theme for the year. Intentions are more flexible, inviting us to move in a particular general direction rather than to wobble along a tightrope. Perhaps you want to work towards a shift in a habit by paying more attention to the emotions that have led you to needing it as a coping mechanism. Perhaps you might choose a word like ‘gentle’ or ‘intentional’ or ‘purpose’ to return to and reflect on throughout the year. Something to meditate on and hold in an open palm, rather than something that you’re either nailing or failing.
Don’t go it alone
Seek a team! When we are trying to change or shift something, having people cheer us on from the side-lines, or even join us in the ring, makes a massive difference to how we get on. Us humans are created for community and accountability. So, instead of approaching your personal battle like a lone wolf this year, invite people along on the journey. Have a frank chat with a mate, join a support group, focus on the step or decision in front of you with someone standing beside you, rather than gazing up alone at the whole mountain.
After the challenge of 2021, I truly believe that what our souls need most of all in 2022 is space to breathe and process what the last year has held. Instead of listing what we want to change about ourselves in 2022, we’d benefit from nurturing and tending to the parts of us that have been overwhelmed or broken by this one.
Find more tips and therapeutic advice from Anna on how to have more joy and less overwhelm during the festive time and beyond with her new video guide, How to Have a Merry Imperfect Christmas****, £10