TWENTY NINE: Resolutions

New Years Resolutions; they go in one year and out the other

New Year, same old cringe me

Well, we made it to 2021. Ironic, because for a lot of us, “2020 won”. But nonetheless, we got through the year, so give yourselves a pat on the back!

Now it’s 2021, so…new year, new me, right? Time for the annual New Year’s Resolutions!

Whoa, whoa, whoa there, tiger. Let’s take a minute, shall we?

New Years Resolutions, they come around every January, when we’re feeling our most optimistic. We’re gonna drop the festive weight, we’re going to drink less, we’re going to exercise more, watch more documentaries and read more books!!!!

…until February, maybe March, when that fresh year glow has worn off and we go back to being our regular selves again.

I’m in two minds about the whole idea of a New Year’s Resolution. On one hand, I find it a bit gimmicky, and I mean if I was looking to make some sort of change to my life, I wouldn’t wait for Jan 1 to get started. But on the other hand, if a new year is what it takes for someone to kick start a healthy habit or switch their focus into something more beneficial to them, then by all means friend, all power to you. But, when it comes to NY resolutions, I think we sometimes take the wrong approach.

Let’s consider some of the most common NY resolutions

  1. “I need to lose 10 kilograms”
  2. “I need to start saving money”
  3. “God, I need to drink less”

Now if we consider these 3 resolutions, they’re certainly not ideas that would prove harmful, in fact their intention is on the right track. Being more financially-wise or improving our diet are great positive changes that we can make for the benefit of our physical or mental well-being. But when it comes to making an effective resolution, we need to consider our approach.

How about, instead of “needing to lose 10kgs”, we say, “I want to find some healthier alternatives to my fave foods”, or “I would like to try a new sport, or join a fitness class”. Instead of focusing on the outcome and fixating on reaching that “magic number”, why not shift the focus into finding more enjoyable ways to eat and exercise that you genuinely enjoy and look forward to. By shifting the focus to from the destination to the journey, it becomes more realistic and manageable.

How about, instead of “I need to start saving money”, we say, “I’d like to learn more about budgeting”, or “I would like to save a minimum of $X by X month”. Instead of making a generalised statement about saving money, why not set some goals, why not plan out a budget? As boring as it can be, taking 5 minutes on payday to allocate where your funds need to go, e.g. rent, bills, groceries, will help you find out how much you have in “spending money”, which you can put straight into savings if you wanted to. My parents always taught me to treat savings like a bill, then you won’t be so inclined to “accidentally” spend it on pizza…for the 3 time…this week… Anyway, I’m not an accountant or finance wiz, but consider taking that general statement and making a plan that works for you, you could apply that to any resolution, not just this example. The less you feel restricted and the closer you get to your goals, the longer you keep it up!

Then of course, there’s the sweeping declaration from any NY day hangover; “I will never drink again!”. So how about, instead of saying to yourself that you need to drink less, we, again, switch the focus. Instead of trying to go “cold turkey” and completely abstaining from alcohol, why don’t we say to ourselves; “I would like to try some different ways of socialising with my friends”. Instead of spending the evening in a bar where all you really do is chat and drink, why not see a movie? Why not go bowling? Why not invite your friends over to make pizzas?! Always a crowd pleaser. By removing ourselves from an environment that screams “drink  me”, we shift the focus from how many pints we’re drowning ourselves in to alcohol complimenting a different social activity.

I could suggest a few other things regarding alcohol, but that’ll be another week. I’ve got plenty in store on that front. But for now, consider what I’ve said above about resolutions, because I’m about to explain why the focus of our resolutions are important to not only their success, but our mental well-being.

Ah, here he goes, the mental health guy is about to apply this to mental health.

Is there a worse feeling than being turned down for a job, or not passing a test? Well, yes, but at the time when the wound is fresh it SUCKS. So when it comes to resolutions, or any goals for that matter, it’s important that we make these goals achievable. And for those really big goals, it’s crucial that we break them up into smaller goals to keep us motivated. Let’s take the weight loss example.

Instead of this;

  • Lose 10 kgs

We do this

  1. Join a gym/participate in a regular team sport or club/find an active hobby I enjoy
  2. Find some healthier alternatives to my favourite foods
  3. Plan out/cook my meals for the week
  4. Lose 3kgs this month
  5. Long term goal: Lose 10kgs

To me, there’s few feelings more satisfying than making a list (and checking it twic- wait, festive season is over) and checking off tasks as they are done. It motivates me and reminds me that, while I may not be at the main goal yet, I’m still making progress. It’s important to feel like we’re on our way to achieving our goal, otherwise it becomes far too easy to throw in the towel.

The reason I say all of this, is that we often find ourselves in somewhat of a Flat February if we set ourselves goals and don’t see the progress/results we hoped for. It’s not good for our psyche, let’s instead take baby steps instead of great leaps, and reap the benefits over the long term.

SO. Let’s take a look at our resolutions, and let’s put a little more work into them. Let’s break up these big tasks into smaller, more achievable ones that remind us that we’re on the right track. While life hasn’t changed between December 31 and January 1, if now is the time that you needed to make that change, you go for it. Start 2021 on the right foot, your way.

Happy Mental Health Monday

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