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My personal thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, I like the idea of a new year being a fresh start; a chance to think about what we might like to be different during the year ahead, and consider how we might achieve it. On the other hand, I have noticed in recent years that the vast majority of New Year’s Resolutions I hear about are somewhat self-punishing in nature.
“I resolve to lose 20kg”, “I resolve to finish making that blanket I got bored with five years ago”, “I resolve to clean out the garage”; the list goes on. None of these resolutions are necessarily bad (although they may be for some people), but they do carry a certain depreciating air. They all suggest that the current you (the you who carries an ‘extra’ 20kg on them, or who owns an unfinished blanket or messy garage) is a specimen that is ‘wrong’ in some way and needs to be corrected. As such, carrying out the resolution is not done because you want to do it, so much as it is done because you feel like you have to do it. Oftentimes, when such a resolution becomes tiresome, or the actual results are not as good as the expected results, the resolution is abandoned before it is completed. I believe this is why New Year’s Resolutions are so well-known for being mostly unresolved.
In light of this, I would like to propose a different kind of New Year’s Resolution. Instead of deciding that something about you is ‘wrong’ and undergoing often unpleasant methods to try and correct it, this kind of resolution involves celebrating the things about you that are ‘right’. Instead of aiming to be better version of you, you aim to appreciate how great you already are.
I call these resolutions ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ resolutions, and they can be just as, if not more, rewarding than standard resolutions. As well as that, they are also far easier resolutions to keep, because the very act of doing them is a reward in itself.
What makes a good ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ resolution will depend largely on what you are like as a person and what you view as an act of kindness. If you are not sure what that might entail, here are a couple of examples that demonstrate the idea.
Set aside some money each month to spend just on you.
On first reading, this might sound as though I am encouraging you to spend some of your hard-earned money on things that you don’t need, which goes against the wise words of our more mature friends and family who advise us not to be wasteful with our earnings. That is true to some extent, but I would argue that spending a small amount of the money we earn on something that brings us joy is not wasteful at all. If you are able to afford it, set aside, say, $10 or $20 every month, and spend that money on items or experiences that you know you will enjoy. New books, craft items, DVDs, artisan foods/drinks, cinema tickets, games, subscription boxes, clothes and sports equipment are all possibilities. As long as you will derive joy from what you buy, it is a purchase valid for this resolution.
Think about something that is great about you once a day
This impact of this resolution comes from repetitive, positive thinking. Set yourself an alarm for a time of day when you are not too busy (perhaps during your lunch hour, or just after eating dinner), and make sure you set it to repeat daily. When that alarm rings, think about something you like about yourself. This could be as big or small a thing as you like. Maybe you are unusually good at drawing horses, for instance. Or maybe you gave some money to charity the other day. Maybe you are intelligent, or brave, or compassionate. Maybe you can recite the alphabet backwards in less than five seconds, or maybe you make an incredible spaghetti bolognese. Whatever it is, think of it, think about it, write it down if you wish, and then carry on with your day. You only need to do this for a minute or two, but if you are doing it every day, you will quickly build up a repertoire of things you like about yourself, and that will have you appreciating how great you are as a person a whole lot more.
Do something you love
Every day, week, month, three months, or however often you are able, dedicate a significant amount of time (a couple of hours at least) towards doing something that you love to do. This could be something like cross stitching, or dancing, or reading bad fanfiction, or reading good fanfiction, or watching a favourite childhood movie. The main thing is that you are doing this because you love it. Not because it is ‘good’ for you, or because you can make money from it, or because it will make you look clever/talented. Do it for the pure, unadulterated enjoyment of it, and bask in that enjoyment.
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Learn something at your own pace
Learning how to do something new can bring about a great sense of achievement. Unfortunately, if what we are learning to do takes time, commitment, and energy to master, we often give up well before we master it because we feel like we are not progressing as quickly as we ‘should’. This problem could be resolved if a different approach is taken. If there is something you have always wanted to learn or become better at (a foreign language, an art or craft, a sport, a subject in academia, etc.), try resolving to work on it at your own pace. By which I mean, work on it when you want to work on it, work on it as much or as little as you want, and try not to be guided by other people’s progress. If you do it your way and at your pace, you are far more likely to stick it out and, eventually, master it.
Learn about your body’s physical capabilities
I started running earlier this year. Unlike previous attempts I had made to work exercise into my weekly routines, I approached running in a relaxed, no-pressure sort of way, going at my own pace (as suggested in the point above). The act of running led me to find out that my body is more capable of handling acts of endurance than I had previously thought, which was a far bigger boost to my self-confidence than any arbitrary distance or speed goals I had previously set for myself. Based on my own experience, I would encourage anybody to try and discover for themselves what their body is physically capable of. You could do this by stretching daily, for instance, and seeing how flexible you are. Or you could lift weights and test your physical strength. Or take up something like running or swimming and work out your stamina. You might surprise yourself with how much you can do.
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Practice self-care every day
Self-care is the very definition of being kind to oneself, and I personally view it as a way to relax, centre myself, and free myself from whatever day-to-day pressures are weighing me down. Work out a time of day that is relatively free for you (lunchtime, perhaps, or in the evening after dinner), and set a daily alarm. When the alarm rings, drop everything that is going on and spend however much time you can spare doing something that relaxes, centres, and makes you feel free. Time with bath bombs and scented candles is perhaps the image that springs to mind when we think of the self-care ‘fad’, but self-care can be anything and everything, from gaming to cross-stitch to intense aerobic exercise to masturbation. Whatever you decide to do, stick to doing it every day and allow yourself to enjoy it. You have earned it, I promise you.
Have an excellent new year, everybody.
[Featured Image: Three people sit on the edge of a sidewalk. The person to the left is wearing a green headband, a blue shirt, blue pants and green and black sneakers. The person in the center has white flowers in their hair. They are wearing a yellow shirt and black shorts. The person to the right is wearing a black shirt and blue shorts and black sneakers. All three people are smiling. Behind them is a yellow wall. Source: Michael Coghlan]