Crappy New Year.
New Year’s resolutions are a bit of a double-edged sword.
On their face, they may seem helpful, motivating, an encouraging marker we’ve set for ourselves after evaluating the end of the previous year. We vow to go to the gym more often, step back from social media, stop spending so much money, and quit stressing out about the little stuff. But these resolutions have a tendency to hurt more than help. It’s more likely than not that come the end of the year you’ve forgotten about your resolution entirely because at the beginning of the year you set a goal that was too broad or too unreasonable.
Goals are only really attainable if they follow specific parameters that we know how to meet.
What does ‘stepping back from social media’ really mean? Does that mean quitting it entirely, or using it less? And how much is less? Have you restricted yourself to only posting once or twice a day? Without this kind of structure it’s easy to let those resolutions slip. “Sure, I’m on social media, but not as much as usual!” Without a firm grip on what “as much” means, it’s easy to see how you could be back to your old habits in no time.
Dieting and weight loss are two of the most common New Year’s resolutions, and they’re also the ones that are most likely to make a person feel like a failure at the end of the year. Both of these things are hard, especially if your motivation is self-loathing.
People often forget about mental health when they talk about diet, and this can lead to a swift crash and burn of any resolutions you may have set for yourself. You miss the gym one day and feel bummed. You eat a piece of chocolate cake and you feel like a complete failure. Now that you’ve ruined your resolution, what’s the point?
This is why setting goals more specific than just ‘dieting’ and ‘weight loss’ is important. Why are you trying to achieve these things? Do you want to be able to go on a big hike with your friends? Do you want to lower your cholesterol? Do you just want the rush of energy that comes after your body’s used to working out on a regular basis? Think about why you want to set the resolutions you’re considering, and really think about them. This’ll help you figure out what you’re really asking for, which of course makes them all the more attainable.
That being said, all broad goals aren’t necessarily bad ones. We all work in different ways mentally – sometimes setting specific rigid rules for yourself is more scary than giving yourself a very general command.
Scary stuff is bad, so we avoid our resolutions. But that’s not to say that your broad goals can’t still carry an air of specificity. Instead of setting the unrealistic goal of going to the gym every day – or even every week – say “I’m going to spend this year improving my health.” And remember, mental health counts. If you’ve had a particularly bad week, give yourself permission to go home and soak in a warm bath with a glass of wine instead of hitting the treadmill. You’re still focusing on your health, and you won’t end the year feeling like you’ve failed at something in doing so. Whatever strides you’ve made towards the goals you’ve set are still entirely valid.
So dump your New Year’s resolution. Focus on improving your life.
Images via lovethispic.com and giphy.com. This post was originally published in 2017 and is being republished here due to popularity.
Comment: Do you agree that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time?