January is, of course, the time for New Year’s resolutions. The down time many of us experience at the end of the year offers space for self-reflection, and the start of a new calendar year – not to mention societal tradition – prompts us to vow that this year will be the one where… we lose the weight; get the job; organize the mess; fix the problems; and in short, create our perfect life.
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. For the most part, they’re centered in self-criticism – we look at all the ways we’ve failed over the past year and how we’re just not good enough. Resolutions about ‘getting a beach body’ often focus on unhealthy and unrealistic weight loss, negatively impacting physical and mental health. Most resolutions also hinge on the Western idea that if we put enough work into something – just pull up our bootstraps and dig in – we’ll get what we aim for, and that if we don’t, it’s our fault for not trying hard enough. This doesn’t acknowledge that we all start from different places and with different resources and roadblocks.
The practice of New Year’s resolutions also doesn’t prompt us to acknowledge and congratulate ourselves on our successes. I’m willing to bet that in the past 365 days, you’ve managed some major accomplishments! Sit down and think about what you’ve done – and what strengths helped you get there! Be proud of what you’ve achieved, and spend some time enjoying that feeling of competence.
If you decide to go ahead with a New Year’s resolution for this year, I encourage you to make it a positive, self-loving resolution. Resolve to notice one thing about your body every day that you like. Resolve to spend less time engaging in self-criticism. Give up guilt. Try something you’ve always wanted to try but have been afraid to go for. Call your best friend. Spend more time doing things that bring you joy. Be awesome to yourself!
Want more ideas? Here’s one blogger’s collection of “20 Mental Health Resolutions for the New Year.”