This post is by Meaghan Avery, Healthy Living Program Director for the Old Colony YMCA.
As January 1st arrives, we are often bombarded with images and messages to create large changes in ourselves and in our lives. Making your way into the New Year can be an exciting fresh start but it can also be overwhelming and daunting. The pressure of making long lists of resolutions and the obligation to create a whole “new you” can be stressful. This year I encourage you to give yourself grace and break free of the yearly cycle of “New Year, New You”.
It is not uncommon for people to feel that they need to set extreme goals which require drastic changes to their everyday lifestyle as soon as the New Year hits. The stress of the holidays, combined with the cold, dark days of the winter season, makes it even more of a challenge to attain large-scale changes overnight. This often leads to falling short of the goals that we have set for ourselves. It is only natural to feel a sense of failure when you become overwhelmed and slip up on your goals. This can sometimes lead to larger setbacks or giving up altogether.
Instead, take time to reflect on the past year to recognize or identify things that no longer serve you and that you would like to leave behind. This is more achievable because it is not adding anything new for you to focus on which will allow for other habits to flourish. Likewise, instead of focusing on a “new you,” identify those attributes about yourself that you are grateful for and that you would like to build upon in the year to come. This sets you up to have a positive feeling about yourself as go into the New Year as opposed to feeling like you need to change yourself.
This isn’t to say you should not have goals for yourself. It is certainly important to have goals but you should never feel like you need to make drastic changes in order to be worthy. Instead, identify small achievable goals that can be built upon throughout the year. For example, if your goal is to become more physically active, don’t plan to jump into adding that new habit 6-7 days per week. Alternatively, try adding 2-3 days of achievable physical activity to your week. In addition to setting small, buildable goals, work on setting intentions for what you would like the year ahead to look like. Intentions can include things like being present in the moment, prioritizing what matters most, embracing external change, being intentional with your time, and anything else you wish to focus on. Setting intentions and being in a positive headspace set you up for success to achieve your goals.
Always remember to give yourself grace and remain positive if you choose to make changes this year. Do not allow the bombardment of messaging this time of year to push you into unrealistic goals, negative mindsets, unhealthy and unsustainable habits, or feelings of failure. You do not have to create a whole new person each year. You can go into the New Year with a healthy mindset, the feeling of letting go of things that no longer serve you, positive intentions, achievable goals, and self-love. Be kind to yourself, recognize your progress when it is present, celebrate success, and understand if there are setbacks, tomorrow is always a new day.