It’s that time of year again. “New year, new me” is thrust around with lacklustre and empty promises of revolutionary behavioural changes. It can be hard not to be triggered, with all of the speak of post-Christmas diets and fitness regimes; smokers will quit until the 4th or 5th of January, and a large number of the population will commit the first month to going vegan, giving up ‘junk food’ or abstaining from alcohol, before binging again on the 1st February.
As we jump into 2020, and list our resolutions for the coming year, there is a tendency to focus on what we consider to be our negative attributes, and how we can change these over the next 12 months. Admittedly, the new year is an opportunity, or perhaps an excuse, to start afresh, however, these resolutions typically stem from a negative mindset that does more harm than good in the long run. Internal reflection can quickly escalate to self-deprecation as we list our least favourite attributes and highlight what we would most like to change about ourselves rather than focusing on what we achieved in the previous year and can, therefore, aim to achieve in the next one.
Setting unachievable goals usually leads to not broken resolutions, which can cause us to berate ourselves and feel disheartened. The statistics on whether or not New Year’s resolutions work are contradictory – some studies will tell you that 80 % don’t last past mid-Feb, whilst others will tell you that goalsetting makes you 10 times more likely to be successful in achieving said goals. The issue lies in envisioning resolutions as rules that we must stick to, and setting goals that entail drastic lifestyle changes. Promising yourself to never do something ever again is whimsical and, frankly, unlikely; equally, vowing to put a new habit in place every day won’t hold in the hectic schedule of normal life. There is no need to make goal maintenance stressful or arduous, and unattainable goals will only be detrimental to your esteem when you, inevitably, don’t quite reach them. They’re resolutions not revolutions, after all. Instead, set yourself a mix of short-term and long-term goals, with a focus on positive change. Keep the list short and sweet, which will prevent overwhelming yourself and enable you to focus your energy on these few resolutions. Short term goals should be succinct and achievable. Rather than aiming to quit bad habits, try to use positive reinforcement – for example, aiming to quit smoking by a certain date could be changed to increasing use of nicotine patches/a vape as a substitute. If you really can’t bear to not include some sort of fitness resolution, try to approach this from a goal-based mindset. Rather than promising that this will be the year you get dench or lose X pounds, set yourself a more specific marker that you can monitor; for example, trying out a new sport, being able to lift a certain weight, or running 5 km in a specific time. Have faith in your abilities and set a positive precedent for the new year!
Focus on yourself, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. New year’s resolutions naturally become a selfish exercise, so it’s important to acknowledge that there are wider issues. Make aims for yourself but remember to look out for your friends and family in the coming year, reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or check-up more regularly on someone you know to be going through a rough time. Far too often, I’ve found that it takes a couple bottles of vino before even some of my closest friends will open up to each other, and I want to make 2020 the year that we finally stop crying on nights out and start talking – like, really talking. More than this, we must understand that as individuals we comprise just 0.00000013 % of the global population, but each one of us has a responsibility to contribute to the wider cause. There are small behaviours that we can adopt, which – multiplied by 7.8 billion – could have a significant impact on the world we live in. Buy a keep cup, or a funky, avocado-adorned Chilly’s bottle. Try meat-free Mondays, or Tuesdays, or any day that you can. Again, don’t get frustrated if you can’t commit to Veganuary, resolutions don’t need to be hard and fast rules – merely aims.
By posting my new year’s resolutions, I suppose that I’m committing not just to striving to achieve them, but to adopting the positive-reinforcement mentality that I’ve been waffling on about. I have no idea where 2020 will take me, and there 2020+ things I’d like to try, but at the very least I’d like to aim to:
– go back to uni in September (specific resolution)
– put myself first and continue to work toward self-love and acceptance, in particular body image (vague resolution)
– write more, aiming for one blog a month (specific, monitorable resolution)
– make the effort to ask my friends how they’re doing more regularly, and more soberly (wider picture resolution)
– reduce my personal use of single-use plastic, no more buying plastic water bottles (much wider picture resolution)
At the turn of the last decade, I was 11 years old. I’d just started high school and met a whole bunch of new friends. Last night, these same friends gathered to celebrate the turn of the new decade and companionship that has spanned three. If in 2030 we could all spend New Year’s Eve together, it might be the most magical thing ever, but that’s 10 years away, and for now I’m pretty content in seeing where this year takes us all. Whatever you resolve to quit, take up, lose or achieve in the next year, make sure that you savour each and every one of the next 366 days – because before you know it you’ll be basting the turkey and unbuttoning your jeans all over again, and wondering where the hell 2020 went.